Like Cigarettes And Alcohol, Surgeon General Says Social Media Needs Warning Labels

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy believes social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and X should be legally required to feature health warning labels similar to tobacco and alcohol products.

“The mental health crisis among young people is an emergency-and social media has emerged as an important contributor,” Murthy argues.

” It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents.

Social media companies are facing increasing scrutiny from health experts, advocacy groups, and bipartisan legislators over their role in offering potentially addictive, often toxic online environments to their users.

Surgeon General Murthy issued an advisory statement in May 2023 highlighting “Ample indicators” that these platforms can create a “Profound risk of harm to mental health and well-being.” A few months earlier, the Seattle public school system filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit accusing major social media companies of profiting off of ongoing adolescent mental health crises, which in turn “Directly affects Seattle public schools’ ability to fulfil its educational mission.”

Social media sites are already federally required to ban any users under 13-years-old from their platforms, while apps like TikTok and Instagram have implemented various time-limit notifications and reminders for anyone under the age of 18.

“To be clear, a warning label would not, on its own, make social media safe for young people,” he states, adding that more legislation should “Shield young people from online harassment, abuse and exploitation,” along with privacy protections and restrictions on features like “Push notifications, autoplay and infinite scroll, which prey on developing brains and contribute to excessive use.”