Protecting Young Minds: US Surgeon General’s Stand Against Social Media for Kids Under 16
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned that 13-year-olds are too young to use social media. He cautioned about the possible dangers of social media for kids.
Social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook allow 13-year-olds to have their own accounts. Adults and parents must know how a teen’s exposure to these apps can impact their mental health and total well-being.
Murthy told CNN, “I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early. … It’s a time where it’s really important for us to be thoughtful about what’s going into how they think about their own self-worth and their relationships and the skewed and often distorted environment of social media often does a disservice to many of those children.”
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says he believes 13 is too young for children to be on social media platforms — kids are still "developing their identity."
He wants parents to not let their children use social media until 16-18 years old. pic.twitter.com/QsZzOYLtVV
— Daily Loud (@DailyLoud) January 30, 2023
Social media’s influence is imminent for young people everywhere in this modern age. Research shows that teens are more vulnerable to cyberbullying, which could lead to negative mental health impacts from using social media.
Young minds are like sponges that can absorb ideas more quickly. If a teen is exposed to inappropriate content without supervision, the dangers of social media for kids follow.
In addition, social media usage opens the door to cyberbullying, which can pose serious conditions such as depression. Some can even lead to suicide if left unresolved.
Teen privacy also matters, especially when they overshare their personal details online. Privacy concerns arise when there’s too much data collection involved.
One of the dangers of social media for kids, if they are overly exposed to the online world, is health issues. Some of these are addiction to screens and decreased attention span. Interference on sleep, homework, and family activities is plausible.
Studies that support the possible ban
The surgeon general said, “It’s a time, you know, early adolescence, where kids are developing their identity and sense of self. It’s a time where it’s really important for us to be thoughtful about what’s going into how they think about their own self worth and their relationships and the skewed and often distorted environment of social media often does a disservice to many of those children.”
A 2019 study found that 6,500 12 to 15-year-olds in the US who uses social media for over three hours a day have more risks for mental health problems. While a study involving 12,000 13 to 16-year-olds in the UK presented other data. It showed that social media exposure resulted in poor well-being and mental health.
A large percentage of teens are all social media users. It is alarming, considering the dangers of social media for kids. According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens 13 years old and above have a smartphone, while 97% are already daily internet users.
In a group of 13-14-year-olds, 51% say they use Snapchat, while 51% use TikTok. Older teens who are 15-17 years old use these platforms more. While 65% said, they use Snapchat, and 71% used TikTok.
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy says 13 is too early for kids to be using social media — and that there should be safety standards implemented https://t.co/PenKs3sxjD pic.twitter.com/iI16csAXfG
— CNN (@CNN) January 30, 2023
Murthy told CNN, “If parents can band together and say, you know, as a group, we’re not going to allow our kids to use social media until 16 or 17 or 18 or whatever age they choose, that’s a much more effective strategy in making sure your kids don’t get exposed to harm early.”
Open access to the social media of 13-year-old teens is one of the major culprits. Although TikTok, for example, has a safety setting for children that limits data collection and their profiles’ public privacies.
Concerns of Educators and Parents
Despite all these concerns, there’s no denying that social media plays a significant role. Particularly in the communication and distribution of information.
Adults and parents should monitor their teens’ social media usage to avoid the dangers of social media for kids.
In January, a federal lawsuit accused social media platforms of having addictive structures. Lawyers relate the case as compared to the fight against opioid and tobacco businesses.
The @Surgeon_General is right.
I have seen no compelling reason why middle school kids should be on social media, where they're bombarded with targeted ads, trolls, and algorithms working overtime to addict them.https://t.co/Zlll1rPHqz
— Michael Bennet (@SenatorBennet) January 31, 2023
In addition, earlier this month, Seattle Public Schools also filed a lawsuit against Meta, Snap, and TikTok, alleging that these platforms have “exploited the vulnerable brains of youth.”
The ban is still under debate by the government. But knowing the impact of social media for kids will help parents understand why too much exposure is unsafe.
It is important to note that with some benefits of using these platforms come the numerous dangers of social media for kids. Therefore, 13-year-olds should have complete guidance and a setting of limitations when using social media.
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