Rethinking Social Media’s Impact: A Warning Label Isn’t Enough


Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has called on Congress to pass a law requiring warning labels on social media platforms for adolescents. While it’s encouraging to see the Biden administration address the issue, a warning label alone is insufficient.

The evidence is clear: social media use harms children, and parents need tools to protect their families. Several states, including Florida, Georgia, and Utah, have passed laws to help parents, and Congress should follow their lead.

The impact of social media on children is alarming. Between 2011 and 2019, teenage depression doubled, and emergency room admissions for girls aged 10-14 quadrupled. Studies show that adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more than twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.

Social media algorithms are designed to monopolize user attention, with no regard for the harm this can cause. Meta’s internal research found that Instagram made the lives of teenage girls worse, yet the company did nothing to address the issue.

In response, state governments have stepped in. Utah requires social media platforms to verify users’ age and obtain parental permission for those under 18. The law also allows parents to monitor their children’s content and posts. Florida has banned social media use for children under 14 and requires parental permission for those aged 14-15.

Utah has also created a default curfew for all social media use for those under 18 between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. A surgeon general warning would help limit children’s social media use, but parents need more than just awareness – they need tools to monitor and control their children’s online activities.

Parents have busy lives and may not have the time or expertise to master social media platforms. By requiring children to obtain parental permission to create an account and providing parents with default tools to track and limit their children’s online activities, states like Florida and Utah are bringing much-needed supervision to the issue.

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