US Surgeon General Urges Social Media Platforms to Display Warning Labels Similar to Tobacco Products  


Dr Vivek Murthy, the US Surgeon General, is pushing for a transformation in the way social media platforms engage with young people. He is pressing Congress to enact legislation requiring social media companies to display clear warnings about the potential mental health dangers linked to excessive social media use, similar to the labels on tobacco and alcohol products. He is pressing Congress to require social media companies to display warning labels on their platforms, similar to those on tobacco and alcohol products, to alert users to the potential mental health risks linked to excessive social media use.

The labels proposed by him seek to educate parents and teenagers about the potential harmful effects of social media on mental wellbeing, promoting awareness and encouraging responsible online behaviour. By fostering transparency and self-reflection, these warnings aim to inspire healthier digital habits. Additionally, Murthy advocates for legislative measures to safeguard young users from cyberbullying, abuse, exploitation, and exposure to explicit or violent content on social media platforms.

Dr Murthy advocates for comprehensive measures to safeguard children’s online well-being, including banning data collection from minors, limiting features that promote excessive use (such as notifications, autoplay, and endless scrolling), and mandating independent safety audits. He believes these features exploit vulnerable young minds, leading to harmful overuse. Furthermore, Murthy urges the government to require social media companies to share health-related data with independent researchers and the public, promoting transparency and accountability.

He believes that by providing clear warnings and promoting awareness, individuals will be motivated to reassess their social media habits and adopt more responsible and healthier online practices. Dr Murthy penned an opinion piece in The New York Times: “The mental health crisis among young people is an emergency and social media has emerged as an important contributor.”

Dr. Murthy referenced research showing that social media use is linked to body image concerns in nearly 50% of teenagers and doubles the likelihood of anxiety and depression symptoms in those who spend over three hours daily on platforms. In a May 2023 advisory, he cautioned that social media poses a significant threat to the mental health and well-being of young people, acknowledging the need for further understanding of this complex issue.

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