Surgeon General says 13 is ‘too early’ to join social media

Surgeon General says 13 is ‘too early’ to join social media

Surgeon General says 13 is ‘too early’ to join social media


US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says he believes 13 is too young for children to be on social media platforms because while the sites allow children that age to join, children are still “developing their identity”.

Meta, Twitter, and a host of other social media giants currently allow 13-year-olds to join their platforms.

“I, personally, based on the data that I’ve seen, I believe that 13 is too early… That’s a time where it’s really important that we think about what’s going on with how they think about their own self-worth and their relationships and the skewed and the often distorted environment of social media often does a disservice to many of these children,” Murthy told “CNN Newsroom.”

The number of teenagers on social media has caused alarm among medical professionals who point to a an increasing number of studies about the harm that such platforms can cause to adolescents.

Murthy acknowledged the difficulty in keeping children off these platforms given their popularity, but suggested that parents can achieve success by presenting a united front.

“If parents can come together and say you know, as a group, we’re not going to let our kids use social media until they’re 16 or 17 or 18 or whatever age they choose, that’s a much more effective strategy in making sure your kids aren’t exposed to harm early,” he told CNN.

Surgeon General says 13 is ‘too early’ to join social media

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New research suggests habitually checking social media can alter adolescent brain chemistry.

According to a study published this month in JAMA Pediatricsstudents who checked social media more regularly showed greater neural sensitivity in certain parts of their brains, making their brains more sensitive to social consequences over time.

Psychiatrists like Dr. Adriana Stacey have pointed to this phenomenon for years. Stacey, who primarily works with teenagers and college students, previously told CNN that using social media releases a “dopamine dump” in the brain.

“When we do addictive things, like using cocaine or using smartphones, our brain releases a lot of dopamine at once. It tells our brain to keep using it,” she said. “Especially in teenagers, this part of the brain is actually hyperactive compared to adults. They can’t motivate themselves to do anything else.”

Recent studies show other ways in which excessive screen time can affect brain development. In young children, for example, excessive screen time is significantly associated with weaker new literacy skills and the ability to use expressive language.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who recently published an op-ed in Bulwark on loneliness and mental health, echoed the Surgeon General’s concern about social media. “We’ve lost something as a society, because so much of our life has turned into screen-to-screen communication, it just doesn’t give you the same sense of value and the same sense of satisfaction that talking to someone or seeing someone,” Murphy told CNN in an interview together with Murthy.

For both Murphy and Murthy, the issue of social media addiction is personal. Both men are fathers – Murphy to teenagers and Murthy to young children. “It’s no coincidence that Dr. Murthy and I probably talk more about the issue of loneliness than anyone else in public life,” Murphy told CNN. “I look at this through the lens of my 14-year-old self and my 11-year-old self.”

As a country, Murphy explained, the US is not powerless in the face of big technology. Lawmakers could make different decisions about restricting young children from social media and encouraging companies to make algorithms less addictive.

The Surgeon General similarly addressed addictive algorithms, explaining that pitting teenagers against Big Tech is “simply not a fair fight.” He told CNN: “You have some of the best designers and product developers in the world who have designed these products so that people get the most out of the time they spend on these platforms. And if we tell a child, use your willpower to control how much time you spend, you’re pitting the child against the world’s greatest product designers.”

Despite the hurdles parents and children face, Murphy expressed optimism about the future of social media.

“None of this is beyond our control. When we had dangerous vehicles on the road, we passed laws to make those vehicles less dangerous,” he told CNN. “We should make decisions [social media] a healthier experience that would make children feel better about themselves and less alone.”


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