The advisory identifies positive and negative effects of social media usage and next steps for making social media safer for youth.
US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, released an advisory about the effects of social media on the mental health of children and adolescents.
In response to the national youth mental health crisis, the Surgeon General’s Advisory on Social Media and Youth Mental Health explores the current evidence on the positive and negative effects of social media usage on youth, noting that up to 95% of youth aged 13 to 17 years report using at least 1 social media platform, and more than a third report using social media platforms “almost constantly.”1
The advisory also identifies the biggest concerns related to mental health and wellbeing; suggests opportunities for additional research to better understand the full impact of social media; and recommends some steps stakeholders can take to make social media safer for youth.1
Although youth report several benefits of social media, such as helping them feel more accepted and more connected to their friends and support systems, the advisory notes that extensive social media usage may also disrupt activities such as physical activity and sleep and expose youth to harmful content.1
The advisory also cites research supporting connections between excessive social media use and symptoms of depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, social comparison, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating behaviors. The advisory notes, however, that more research is needed to understand the full extent of social media’s impact on youth.1
“The most common question parents ask me is, ‘is social media safe for my kids?’ The answer is that we don’t have enough evidence to say it’s safe, and in fact, there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health,” Murthy said in a press release.
“Children are exposed to harmful content on social media, ranging from violent and sexual content, to bullying and harassment. And for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends. We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis—one that we must urgently address.”
1. Surgeon General issues new advisory about effects social media use has on youth mental health. US Department of Health and Human Services. News release. May 23, 2023. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/05/23/surgeon-general-issues-new-advisory-about-effects-social-media-use-has-youth-mental-health.html