The United States Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has issued a warning about the negative impacts of social media on mental health and well-being, specifically for children. The advisory cites the critical stage of brain development that children are in, which makes them more vulnerable to harm from social media. Dr. Murthy has called on policy makers, technology companies, and families to better understand and minimize the risks associated with using social media.
Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are widely used among children, and licensed marriage and family therapist Cherlette McCullough warns of the dangers associated with their use. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social media served as an outlet for both children and adults, but McCullough notes that what children see online can cause anxiety, depression, and even lead to suicide. Social media can create an unrealistic standard for children, leaving them feeling inadequate or pressured.
Body image and comparison are among the key issues with social media cited by McCullough. She explains that during their development years, children may not have the ability to discern deception from truth, making the impact of social media even more significant. Additionally, social media use can lead to bullying, peer pressure, and sexual harassment.
Orange County Public Schools is currently considering joining other districts in lawsuits against multiple social media companies, citing negligence and public nuisance. McCullough calls for more policies and procedures from these platforms to keep teens safe.
McCullough urges parents to have open conversations with their children about social media and to lead by example. Parents can set limits on screen time and show their children how to use social media responsibly.
As social media continues to be a significant part of daily life, understanding the risks and taking proactive measures to reduce harm are critical for children’s well-being. If you are concerned about your children’s social media use, seek resources and support from licensed professionals.