US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says 13 is too young for children to be on social media platforms

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says he believes 13 is too young for kids to be on social media platforms because although websites allow kids of that age to join, kids are still in the process of “making their identity develop”.

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

“I personally believe, based on the data I’ve seen, that 13 is too early … It’s a time when it’s really important for us to think about how they feel about their own worth and their relationships and that.” The distorted and often distorted environment of social media often does a disservice to many of these children,” Murthy told CNN Newsroom.

The number of teens on social media has raised alarms among medical professionals, who point to a growing body of research into the harm such platforms can do to teens.

Murthy acknowledged the difficulties of keeping children off these platforms given their popularity, but suggested parents could thrive by presenting a unified front.

“If parents can band together and say that as a group we will not allow our children to use social media until they are 16, 17 or 18 or whatever age they choose, that is a much more effective strategy to ensure that you do, kids don’t get exposed to harm early on,” he told CNN.

Young people are particularly at risk

New research suggests that checking social media regularly can change adolescents’ brain chemistry.

According to a study published this month in JAMA Pediatrics, students 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 been pointing out this phenomenon for years. Stacey, who works primarily with teenagers and college students, previously told CNN that using social media releases a “dopamine dump” in the brain.

“When we do things that are addictive, like cocaine or smartphones, our brains release a lot of dopamine all at once. It tells our brain to keep using that,” she said. “In teenagers in particular, this part of their brain is actually hyperactive compared to adults. You cannot motivate yourself to do anything else.”

Recent studies show other ways excessive screen time can impact brain development. For example, in young children, excessive screen time was significantly associated with poorer literacy skills and the ability to use expressive language.

The legislature takes care of that

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who recently published an op-ed in the Bulwark on loneliness and mental health, echoed the surgeon general’s concerns about social media. “We’ve lost something as a society as so much of our lives have turned into screen-to-screen communication, it just doesn’t give you the same value and sense of satisfaction as talking to anyone or anyone see,” Murphy told CNN in an interview with Murthy.

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

As a country, Murphy explained, the US is not powerless in the face of Big Tech. Lawmakers could make other decisions to bar young children from social media and provide incentives for companies to make algorithms less addictive.

Surgeon General similarly addressed addictive algorithms, stating that pitting youth against Big Tech is “just not a fair fight.” He told CNN, “You have some of the best designers and product developers in the world creating these products to ensure people maximize the time they spend on these platforms. And when we tell a kid, use the power of your willpower to control how much time you spend, pit a kid against the world’s best 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 legislated to make those vehicles less dangerous,” he told CNN. “We should be making choices to make (social media) a healthier experience that makes kids feel better and less alone.”

CNN contributed to its report. US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says 13 is too young for children to be on social media platforms

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