TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — There is a new urgent warning from the U.S. Surgeon General about protecting children from the harmful effects of social media.
Dr. Vivek Murthy said those social media risks are contributing to the country’s youth mental health crisis.
“I have Instagram, I have Snapchat, I have Tik Tok, I have Facebook,” Plant High School graduate Amara Woodward said.
She plans to study behavioral neurosciences at Florida State University.
“If you’re a person that gets addicted,” Woodward said, “social media is going to be a vice.”
Woodward told News Channel 8 teens should avoid spending too much time on social media apps.
“When it’s constantly there, your mental health is going to decline because you’re constantly feeding into that cycle of loneliness,” Woodward said.
According to a new report from the U.S. Surgeon General, research has shown social media use can lead to or exacerbate low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders.
“Some teens and personally me, we compare each other to people who we find beautiful and we may not feel like we’re the beauty standards so it’s really hard to keep your confidence up,” said Gigi Allen, a rising high school senior.
Pediatric psychologist Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital said parents need to know which social media apps their children have downloaded.
“Some apps can look like they do one thing, but they really do something else,” Dr. Katzenstein said, “so we need to know what each of those apps mean.”
Dr. Katzenstein said parents should set an example about setting aside time to stay off digital devices.
“Put that device down during meal time whenever you can,” she said. “Put your device away an hour or two before bed because we know our devices impact our sleep.”
Woodward offered some advice for students heading into high school.
“If you find yourself using various social media apps more than a couple hours a day, honestly, you may have a problem and you need to work with your peers and your family if you have that support system,” she said.
Dr. Katzenstein said parents and children should also be concerned about cyberbullying on social media.
The U.S. Surgeon General said kids and teens need to report online harassment and abuse.
His advisory report also offers recommendations for policymakers, such as funding future research, requiring more data privacy protections for children and encouraging digital and media literacy education in schools.