You saw the surgeon general's proposal and want to read more about social media and health. Start here.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is asking Congress to require warning labels on social media platforms that are similar to those that appear on cigarette boxes. (Susan Walsh/AP file)

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is calling for social media platforms to come with warning labels. In an op-ed for the New York Times published on Monday, Murthy writes that the “mental health crisis among young people is an emergency” and social media is an “important contributor.”

🏃 Catch up quickly

In the article, Murthy called on Congress to approve a surgeon general’s warning label for social media sites to “regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe.” Pointing to tobacco labels, which have been shown to increase awareness and change behavior, Murthy believes that legislation could make social media safer and shield young people from “online harassment, abuse and exploitation and from exposure to extreme violence and sexual content that too often appears in algorithm-driven feeds.”

🥇 Where to start

➕ So you want to dive deeper? What to read next.

  • Why the surgeon general is calling for a warning label. Last year Murthy released a 25-page advisory emphasizing social media’s “profound risk of harm” to children and teens with recommendations on how to make social media safer. His new op-ed is a follow-up that proposes further action. [Motherly]

  • Experts react. A potential surgeon general warning should serve as a “wakeup call” to parents, Kara Alaimo, associate professor of communication at Fairleigh Dickinson University, writes. [CNN]

  • How one parent feels about the proposal. Humor columnist Rex Huppke “wholeheartedly” agrees with the idea, saying social media sites are “toxic digital cesspools” and should “be banned like asbestos.” His real question: But what about guns? [USA Today]

  • Where Congress stands. A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with executives from companies including Meta, Snap and X was held in January to drum up bipartisan support for federal safeguards. [Good Morning America]

  • Where states stand. Utah became the first state to limit teenagers’ access to social media sites in March 2023. [Yahoo News]

  • What the American Psychological Association says about social media. First-of-its-kind guidance was released last May, which includes 10 actions to take to ensure social media is being used properly. [Yahoo Life]

  • By the numbers. 41% of teens who report the highest social media use rate their overall mental health as poor or very poor. [APA]

  • It’s not all bad! Loneliness is also an epidemic and social media can help ease that. Some other perks include encouraging personal expression, information access and acting as a source of support. [Verywell Family]

  • How parents can set social media limits for their kids. It’s not easy, but experts have some advice like getting a “dumb phone” first, signing contracts and setting rules, organizing activities and putting devices out of reach at night. [Yahoo Life]

  • A mom’s first-person story about signing a pledge to keep her kids off of social media until middle school. Tamara Weston and her fellow first-grade parents came together to present a united front. [Yahoo Life]

  • Follow the middle-ground approach to protect kids. Rather than an outright ban, Natalie Bazarova, a professor of communications and director of the Cornell Social Media Lab, said, “You cannot just expect that the kids will jump into the world of social media, learn how to swim on their own.” [Associated Press]

⭐ You’re still not done? Keep going!

  • What a clinical psychologist thinks parents should read. Writer Caitlin Dewey asked Jacqueline Nesi, a Brown University professor who helped write the APA’s guidance, which articles could help contextualize the “complex, nuanced relationship between teens' mental health ... and their screens.” [Links I Would Gchat You If We Were Friends]