Dave and Chuck the Freak

U.S. Surgeon General: Social Media Needs A Warning Label

Should social media platforms come with warning labels? Well, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said the threat social media poses to children requires urgent action, and he demanded Congress put a label on the apps, as it does with cigarettes and alcohol. In an op-ed in the New York Times Monday (June 17), Murthy said, “The mental health crisis among young people is an emergency — and social media has emerged as an important contributor.” Social media and warning labels He also referenced multiple studies, such as a 2019 American Medical Association study published in JAMA, which indicated that teens who spend three hours daily on social media have twice the risk of depression. According to a Gallup poll, teens use social media apps for almost five hours each day. Murthy also mentioned that his vision of the warning includes language that would alert users to the potential mental health harms of the website and apps. He told NBC’s TODAY, that he had spoken to thousands of parents in recent years and that their No. 1 concern was consistently social media use among children. "When adolescents spend more than three hours a day on social media, we’re seeing an association with a doubling of risk of anxiety and depression symptoms," he said. In 1965, following Surgeon General Luther L. Terry's 1964 report that connected cigarette smoking to lung cancer and heart disease, Congress required cigarette packs to carry warning labels. The first label warned, “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.” Murthy stated in the op-ed, “Evidence from tobacco labels shows that surgeon general’s warnings can increase awareness and change behavior.” However, he admitted the limitations, noting that a label alone wouldn't make social media safe. The surgeon general also recommends that companies be required to share all their data on health effects with independent scientists and the public. Murthy said schools and parents also need to participate in providing phone-free times and that doctors, nurses, and other clinicians should help guide families toward safer practices. Some social media platforms such as Meta, YouTube, and TikTok have content warning labels. But they don’t go into too much detail. Usually, it’s to warn about a sensitive topic or dangerous or illegal activities. But none of these warnings target trigger warnings or mental health. It’s worth mentioning that there are content creators who do make note of certain warnings before they really get into their content or within the content caption.

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