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U.S. Surgeon General Advocates for Health Warnings on Social Media Platforms for Teens

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U.S. Surgeon General Advocates for Health Warnings on Social Media Platforms for Teens

U.S. Surgeon General Calls for Warning Labels on Social Media Platforms to Protect Teen Mental Health

In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy advocated for social media platforms to display warning labels, akin to those found on cigarette packs, aimed at addressing the rising mental health issues among teenagers linked to these apps.

“It is time to mandate a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, alerting users that social media is associated with significant mental health risks for adolescents,” Murthy emphasized.

Drawing a parallel to the effectiveness of warning labels on cigarette packages in increasing awareness and altering behavior, Murthy acknowledged that implementing such labels on social media platforms would necessitate congressional legislation.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has not yet responded to requests for comment on this proposal.

Murthy has previously highlighted the potential dangers that social media poses to teenagers’ mental well-being, advocating for stricter guidelines last year amid mounting evidence indicating profound risks associated with these apps.

While emphasizing that warning labels alone would not suffice to ensure platform safety for children, Murthy underscored the need for robust safety measures as a top priority.

He further urged Congress to enact legislation safeguarding young people from online harassment, abuse, exposure to extreme violence, and sexual content. Murthy proposed measures to prevent platforms from collecting sensitive data from minors and limit features like push notifications, autoplay, and infinite scroll, which can exacerbate excessive use and negatively impact developing brains.

Additionally, Murthy recommended that companies disclose all health-related data to independent scientists and the public—a step currently lacking—and undergo independent safety audits.

In supporting safer practices, Murthy called for schools and parents to establish phone-free periods, with healthcare professionals guiding families toward healthier digital habits.