US Surgeon General Advocates for Warning Labels on Social Media to Protect Mental Health


Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is urging Congress to authorize a surgeon general’s warning for social media, citing the technology’s role in a rising mental health crisis among children and teenagers. Murthy argues that social media is a significant factor in the crisis, and that a warning label is necessary to protect young people.

In an opinion piece published on Monday, Murthy wrote that it is “time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents.” He emphasized that the moral test of any society is how well it protects its children.

Murthy has long been a critic of social media for youth, and has previously warned that there is insufficient evidence to show that social media is safe for children and teenagers. He is now calling on policymakers to address the harms caused by social media, including online harassment, abuse, and exploitation, as well as exposure to extreme violence and sexual content.

Murthy is also urging regulation of push notifications and infinite scrolling, which he believes prey on developing brains and contribute to excessive use. Recent studies have shown that adolescents who spend more than three hours per day on social media double their risk of developing anxiety and depression symptoms. Most teenagers in the age bracket spend an average of 4.8 hours on social media per day.

According to a 2022 adolescent media use survey from Boston Children’s Hospital, and only 17% of teenagers self-reported that they were “not at all ‘addicted'” to screen media. Murthy is recommending that parents and schools take action to create phone-free environments for children and teenagers, and that parents work together to establish shared rules to protect their children.

Murthy’s proposal is similar to that of New York University professor Jonathan Haidt, who has also recommended delaying smartphone or social media access until after middle school in his latest book, The Anxious Generation.

Gabrielle M. Etzel
Gabrielle M. Etzel
Healthcare Reporter. Previously, Etzel served as a staff reporter at Campus Reform and as a freelance writer. After graduating from Grove City College, she earned her master's in public policy and administration from Baylor University, where she conducted research on domestic sex trafficking. In her free time, Etzel enjoys being with her family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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