USA: Warnings required for social media


U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy calls for health warnings for younger users on social media.

Previously, the head of the public health service had already issued corresponding warnings with the Advisory on Social Media and Youth Mental Health. These health warnings would correspond to those on cigarette packets, for example. They are intended to warn parents and children about the risks to mental health posed by social media.


Negative consequences for the psyche

Murthy is also calling for a ban on cell phones in schools. The Surgeon General admits that the research results on this topic are not yet clear. However, he also emphasizes that there is no more time to wait for the complete information. The current study shows that more screen time and negative physical behavior can have cognitive consequences. One reason why screen time is so problematic is that it affects other activities associated with wellbeing, such as physical activity, interactions with family and friends or school interests.

Some, but not all studies, assume that the use of social media can be associated with more feelings of anxiety and symptoms of depression in adolescents. According to the experts, the pressure of achieving social approval and constantly gaining likes and followers can increase stress and anxiety in young people. Social media can also lead to cyberbullying and negative social interactions, which in turn are linked to poor mental health and numerous other problems.

Focus on LGBTQ+ young people

Cell phones also have a negative effect on attention. According to the latest study results, pupils need up to 20 minutes before they are fully focused again. There are numerous arguments in favor of a ban on cell phones in schools, they say. However, this ban could also have negative consequences for some young people. LGBTQ+ young people use social media to form a community where they can get support, share information and develop their identity. Restricted access could therefore further exacerbate their mental health problems.

The effectiveness of warnings depends on the form they take. Studies assume that warnings aimed at safe use are more successful. In the case of social media, this means improving social media competence. For example, warnings could be aimed at the fact that content on social media is not always representative of real life. These warnings also make the media platforms more accountable. They are designed for maximum use and benefit from the engagement of their users.

According to the authors of the study, warnings could help them to be more aware of how these companies benefit from their use. Even if these warnings do not necessarily prevent young users from using a lot, they could at least encourage parents to set limits. Because it is clear that focusing exclusively on social media offerings will not be able to solve the increasing mental health problems of today’s youth.

(ds/press release)

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