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20 July, 2024
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US Surgeon General urges social media warning labels

The move aims to protect youth mental health and to mitigate depression which studies show may be cause by social media


In a bold move aimed at protecting youth mental health, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has proposed mandatory warning labels on social media platforms, akin to those found on cigarette packages. Murthy argues that social media poses significant risks of anxiety and depression among adolescents, citing evidence linking heavy usage to adverse mental health outcomes.

Murthy's call, published in the New York Times, advocates for alerts that would regularly remind users of the potential harms associated with prolonged social media exposure. He believes these warnings could empower parents to better monitor their children's online activities and promote safer digital habits.

The Surgeon General also recommended banning phones in schools and restricting device use during meals and bedtime to mitigate the impact of social media on young people's well-being. While acknowledging varying research findings on the subject, Murthy stressed the urgency of addressing what he calls a mental health emergency exacerbated by digital platforms.

Critics, however, argue that while social media has its risks, it also offers benefits like connectivity and support networks for adolescents. The American Psychological Association cautions against blanket judgments on social media's impact, emphasizing the need for balanced use and parental oversight.

Murthy's proposal has sparked debates worldwide, paralleling efforts in the UK where new regulations are being implemented to safeguard children online amidst growing concerns over harmful content. As discussions continue, stakeholders await responses from major platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Meta, signaling potential shifts in digital safety policies globally.

[With information from the BBC]

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