The US surgeon general calls for labels on social media, like on cigarettes

The U.S. surgeon general has asked Congress to require warning labels on social media platforms similar to those currently available. obligatory on cigarette boxes.

In an opinion piece published Monday in The New York Times, Dr. Vivek Murthy said social media contributes to the mental health crisis among young people.

“It is time to require a Surgeon General warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant harm to adolescent mental health. The surgeon general’s warning label, which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and teens that social media has not been proven to be safe,” Murthy said. “Evidence from tobacco studies shows that warning labels can increase awareness and change behavior. »

Murthy said using a simple warning label would not make social media safe for young people but would be part of the necessary measures.

AP correspondent Julie Walker reports that the Surgeon General is calling on Congress to require warning labels on social media.

Social media use is widespread among young people, with up to 95% of young people 13- to 17-year-olds report using a social media platform, and more than a third report using social media “almost constantly,” according to 2022 data from the Pew Research Center.

“Social media today is like tobacco decades ago: it is a product whose business model depends on children’s addiction. And like cigarettes, the surgeon general’s warning label is a crucial step toward mitigating the threat to children,” said Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, an organization dedicated to ending cigarette smoking. marketing aimed at children, in a press release.

Last year Murthy He warned that there was not enough evidence to prove this. social networks It is safe for children and adolescents. He said at the time that policymakers needed to address the harms of social media in the same way they regulate things like car seats, infant formula, medications and other products used by children.

To comply with federal regulations, social media companies already prohibit children under 13 from registering on their platforms – but children have been shown to easily circumvent the ban, with or without consent. their parents.

Other measures taken by social platforms to address concerns about children’s mental health can also be easily circumvented. For example, TikTok introduces by default 60 minute delay For users under 18 years old. But once the limit is reached, minors can simply enter a password to continue watching.

Murthy believes the impact of social media on young people should be a more pressing concern.

“Why have we failed to address the harms of social media when they are no less urgent or widespread than those posed by unsafe cars, planes or food? These harms are not due to a lack of will or parenting; They are the consequence of the deployment of powerful technology without adequate security measures, transparency or accountability,” he wrote.

In January, the CEOs of Meta, TikTok, X and other social media companies addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee to bear witness Parents fear they are not doing enough to protect young people. The executives touted the existing safety tools on their platforms and the work they have done with nonprofits and law enforcement to protect minors.

Murthy said Monday that Congress must implement legislation that would protect young people from harassment, abuse and exploitation online and from exposure to extreme violence and sexual content.

“The measures should prevent platforms from collecting sensitive data about children and should restrict the use of features such as push notifications, autoplay and infinite scrolling, which attack brain development and contribute to increased usage. excessive,” Murthy wrote.

Kate Bulkeley uses her phone to print out textbook pages while Sutton prepares art supplies ahead of her ski holiday on Friday (February 1).  16, 2024, in Westport, Connecticut.  It's hard to be a teenager today without social media.  For those trying to stay off social platforms in a time when most of their peers are immersed, the path can be difficult, isolating, and sometimes liberating.  It can also be life-changing.  (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Sense. Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal supported Murthy’s message Monday.

“We are pleased that the Surgeon General – America’s top doctor – continues to call attention to the harmful impact of social media on our children,” the senators said in a prepared statement.

The surgeon general also recommends that companies be required to share all of their health effects data with independent scientists and the public, which they currently do not do, and that they allow independent safety audits.

Murthy said schools and parents also need to be involved in providing phone-free time and that doctors, nurses and other clinicians should help guide families toward safer practices.

While Murthy urges more to be done about social media in the United States, the European Union is stepping up Revolutionary new digital rules Last year. The Digital Services Act is part of a series of technology-driven regulations designed by the 27-nation bloc – long a global leader in crack down on tech giants.

DSA is designed to keep users safe online and Much harder to deliver content either it’s illegal, like hate speech or child sexual abuse, or it violates a platform’s terms of service. It also aims to protect citizens’ fundamental rights, such as privacy and freedom of expression.

Officials have warned tech companies that violations could result in fines of up to 6% of their global revenue – which could run into billions – or even a fine. EU ban.

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