Is a Warning Label To Social Media Coming? Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Feels it is Time

Is A Warning Label To Social Media Coming? Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Feels it is Time
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Is a Warning Label To Social Media Coming? Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Feels it is Time

It doesn’t matter how old our children are, we are all worried about how social media is impacting their lives now and in the future. Heck, even those without children are worried about how social media is impacting their mental state.

 

This topic is all the more top-of-mind as of late with the much buzzed about book The Anxious Generation by Jonathan Haidt and related initiatives like #phonefreefriday. Now, United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is looking to add a warning label on social media in the same way it does with cigarettes and alcohol. “This initiative highlights the need for parents to be vigilant and proactive in managing their children’s social media habits,” says Yaron Litwin, Digital Safety Expert and Chief Marketing Officer at Canopy.

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In fact, in his op-ed Murthy referenced a number of studies including a 2019 American Medical Association study published in JAMA that showed teens who spend three hours a day on social media double their risk of depression – surveys have shown that teens spend nearly five hours a day on social media apps.

 

“He’s looking to add a warning onto social media because though it seems like social media has been around for a long time it’s rather new and we’re raising children in an unprecedented time of having full access to social media platforms since birth,” says Olivia Dreizen Howell, a social media expert, certified life and success coach and CEO and founder of Fresh Starts Expert Community. “What has been reported is that having access to social media at an early age is detrimental to mental health and we need to take a hard look at the goal of social media and the long term impact it will have on the future generations.”

Howell goes on to note that while there is positivity that can result from being active on social media, children are not born knowing how to maneuver and manage themselves on these platforms, so we need to carefully assess how to handle raising children in the world of social media as a constant.

It’s Not One-Dimensional

A lot of parents feel that protecting their children from social media is black or white, but that really isn’t the case. There can be a nuanced and thoughtful approach.

“I really think the most important thing Murthy wants parents to know is that we can approach social media and our children with a researched, well-balanced and gentle approach,” says Howell. “Social media can play a very important role for many children – especially children who find it hard to communicate person-to-person or children who are lacking support in their everyday lives.”

However, she goes on to note that we can’t stand idly and watch our children navigate the murky waters of social media alone. “I very much appreciate that his call to action was a community call to action – we have to look at this as a mental health crisis for all children – and work together, so that parents don’t feel the guilt that they are ‘ruining’ their children by not letting them participate in social media.”

A Warning Label To Social Media Proposal is Long Overdue

While the proposal might appear overdue given the widespread use of social media, it’s still a crucial step in the right direction according to Litwin. “Addressing the issue now can help mitigate further harm and foster a healthier digital environment for future generations. Implementing warning labels and other regulatory measures can still significantly impact awareness and behavior.” Nonetheless he underlines that the effectiveness of warning labels will depend on their implementation and integration into a broader strategy. 

“Warning labels alone may not suffice, but as part of a comprehensive approach—including education, parental controls and mental health support—they can contribute to healthier social media habits and reduce the risks associated with excessive use.”

Kids Social Media Digital Safety
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What are some things parents can do today? 

Parents can take immediate steps to protect their children. Litwin suggests the following:

  1. Set and enforce limits on daily social media usage. 
  2. Discuss the potential mental health risks associated with excessive social media use. 
  3. Encourage and facilitate offline activities that promote well-being.
  4. Utilizing parental control tools to monitor and manage social media use.
  5. Model healthy digital habits for your children.

 

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