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Surgeon General Demands Social Media Platforms to Post Warning Labels Similar to Those for Tobacco

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U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has made a ground-breaking request to Congress: impose warning labels on social media sites that are similar to those on tobacco products. Murthy’s plea, which was described in an opinion piece that appeared in The New York Times on Monday, emphasizes how critical it is to solve the youth mental health epidemic, of which social media is clearly a major cause.

According to Murthy, these alerts are an essential tool for educating users—parents and teenagers in particular—about the possible hazards to their mental health that come with using social media. “A surgeon general’s warning label, which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe,” he said.

Murthy drew comparisons between the 1965 law requiring health warnings on cigarette packets and the significant research that linked smoking to serious health problems. She also emphasized the potential influence of these labels on social media awareness and behavior. “Surgeon General’s warnings can increase awareness and change behavior, as evidenced by tobacco labels,” he said, adding that cautions do not guarantee social media safety on their own.

Congress, social media firms, parents, and other stakeholders are among the parties Murthy is calling on to take decisive action to reduce hazards and safeguard children online. He referenced startling figures, such as those from the American Psychological Association showing that teens use apps like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram for about five hours per day. According to a 2019 research, there was a 47% rise in young people’ suicidal ideation and other suicide-related outcomes between 2008 and 2017, which coincided with a rise in social media use.

Following a 2021 recommendation and a recent public health conference wherein Murthy emphasized the deleterious consequences of excessive social media usage on sleep and in-person relationships, the Surgeon General has issued a caution. He said, “It’s no longer the culture for people to talk to each other anymore,” underscoring the need for more study to properly comprehend the effects of social media.

Murthy also recognized the advantages of social media, such how it helps teens express themselves and build communities. The detrimental effects of social media exposure on mental health, such as anxiety, depression, bullying, and body shaming, highlight the urgent need for regulation.

The businesses in charge of the main social media networks have not yet responded to Murthy’s opinion piece as of Monday. The demand for a concerted effort to protect the mental health of youth is becoming more and more prevalent, resonating with the revolutionary public health initiatives of the past.

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