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U.S. surgeon general pushes for warning labels on social media

Surgeon General calls for warning labels on social media platforms to highlight potential mental health risks.

Warning: Surgeon General addressing social media dangers.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, has a message for social media platforms: it’s time to slap on a warning label on your services.

The New York Times reports that Murthy is calling on Congress to introduce labels highlighting the potential mental health risks associated with using these platforms. Think tobacco-style warnings, but instead of cancer and lung disease, we’re talking anxiety, depression, and a distorted body image.

The Surgeon General isn’t messing around. He’s declaring the mental health crisis among young people a full-blown emergency, and he’s putting social media squarely in the crosshairs.

Murthy points to studies showing that nearly half of teens believe social media messes with their body image, and those spending over three hours a day on these platforms are twice as likely to experience anxiety and depression symptoms.

Surgeon General calls for warning labels on social media platforms to highlight potential mental health risks.

Of course, not everyone agrees that social media is the villain here. Some experts and tech CEOs argue the evidence linking social media use to depressive symptoms in teens is flimsy at best.

But Murthy’s not buying it. He issued an advisory last year warning that social media poses a “profound risk of harm” to kids’ mental health, even acknowledging that the issue isn’t fully understood.

Murthy’s argument? In an emergency, you don’t have the luxury of waiting for perfect information. It’s time to assess what we know and act fast. The New York Times has its full argument.

But warning labels are just the beginning. Murthy wants legislation to protect kids from online harassment, abuse, and exposure to extreme content.

He’s also proposing a ban on collecting kids’ data and restricting features like push notifications and infinite scroll, which he argues take advantage of developing brains and lead to excessive use.

This isn’t the first time the idea of regulating social media to protect mental health has come up. Scientific American explores whether new regulations could help mitigate the harm. And Stanford Law dives into the growing concern over social media addiction and youth well-being.

The Surgeon General’s call for action comes as states are already introducing legislation to address concerns over social media’s impact on kids’ mental health. NCSL tracks the latest legislative efforts.

I’m all for this. Social media companies deliberately design their apps to be addictive, aiming to maximize screen time. The more users and engagement they have, the more they can charge advertisers, and the vicious cycle just repeats itself

Warning labels on social media sites or apps might seem like an answer, but they won’t fix the problem. Just look at how many people still smoke despite the warnings. We need real changes to stop these companies from controlling our time.

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Kevin is KnowTechie's founder and executive editor. With over 15 years of blogging experience in the tech industry, Kevin has transformed what was once a passion project into a full-blown tech news publication. Shoot him an email at kevin@knowtechie.com or find him on Mastodon or Post.

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