Social media a ‘profound risk of harm’ to kids’ mental health, says America’s top doctor

Social media was blamed for ‘a national youth mental health crisis’

Social media use can pose a “profound risk of harm” to the mental health and wellbeing of young people, America’s top doctor has warned.

The US surgeon general has called on tech companies, policymakers and parents to take “immediate action to protect kids now”.

Dr Vivek Murthy says the country is experiencing “a national youth mental health crisis” and said social media was one of the main culprits.

He told the Associated Press: “The bottom line is we do not have enough evidence to conclude that social media is, in fact, sufficiently safe for our kids. And that’s really important for parents to know.”

Montana became the first US state to outlaw TikTok, due to take effect from the start of 2024, and campaigners are pushing for a nationwide ban.

Research have found links between social media use and depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, along with sleep problems.

Furthermore, a recent global study of nearly 30,000 young adults shows a strong correlation between the age at which youngsters get their first smartphone and their mental health state.

Participants who got their first smartphone before age 10 are doing worse, on average, than those who didn’t get one until they were in their teens. The older youngsters were when they received their first smartphone or tablet, the better their mental well-being was as adults.

Those exposed to the internet when younger were “more likely to experience suicidal thoughts, feelings of aggression towards others and a sense of being detached from reality”.

The research, conducted by Sapien Labs as part of the Global Mind Project, also found that females using social media a lot were more likely to suffer lower self-worth, motivation and resilience.

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