U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy believes children 13 years old are too young to join social media platforms, citing kids are still “developing their identity,” and such engagement can create a distorted sense of themselves.
Murthy, who has served as surgeon general under the Obama and the Biden administrations, signaled the warning in an interview with CNN, noting adolescents should only be allowed to access the platforms until they were 16 years old at the earliest.
“It’s a time, you know, early adolescence, where kids are developing their identity, their sense of self,” Murthy said. “It’s a time where it’s really important for us to be thoughtful about what’s going into how they think about their own self-worth and their relationships, and the skewed and often distorted environment of social media often does a disservice to many of those children.”
Social media giant platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter require a minimum age of 13 to join.
Murthy further noted the issue with addictive algorithms, which pits youth against Big Tech.
“You have some of the best designers and product developers in the world who have designed these products to make sure people are maximizing the amount of time they spend on these platforms,” he said. “And if we tell a child, use the force of your willpower to control how much time you’re spending, you’re pitting a child against the world’s greatest product designers.”
“And that’s just not a fair fight,” he added. “And so that’s why I think our kids need help.”
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study earlier this month which sampled 178 12-year-olds from three public middle schools in North Carolina and reviewed how often the minors check social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Researchers found individuals with habitual checking behaviors showed initial hypoactivation but increasing sensitivity to potential social cues over time. Nonhabitual individuals, however, showed initial hyperactivation and decreasing sensitivity.
“Our findings suggest that checking behaviors on social media in early adolescence may tune the brain’s sensitivity to potential social rewards and punishments,” Dr. Eva Telzer, co-author of the study and a professor in developmental psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said.
Dr. Adriana Stacey told CNN using social media releases a “dopamine dump” and compared the addictiveness of smartphones to cocaine.
“It tells our brains to keep using that,” Stacey said. “For teenagers in particular, this part of their brain is actually hyperactive compared to adults. They can’t get motivated to do anything else.”
Surgeon General Murthy called on parents to band together to prevent their children from logging on to social media platforms until they’re at least 16 years old.
“That’s a much more effective strategy in making sure your kids don’t get exposed to harm early,” he said.
Seattle Public School District officials filed a lawsuit earlier this month against several social media platform owners, including Facebook and TikTok, for allegedly intentionally cultivating and creating a mental health crisis among the youth and have caused a public nuisance affecting Seattle Public Schools.
President Joe Biden drew attention to social media platforms in his 2022 State of the Union Address, alleging the harm social media has wrought on American youth should implore all to “hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.”