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Navigating the Effects of Social Media on Teen Mental Health

It's no secret that social media has a significant impact on the mental health of teenagers. While it's a great way to stay connected with loved ones, it can also lead to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. There is increasing concern about the negative effects of excessive social media use, particularly on mental health. It is crucial to understand the risks associated with social media and to find ways to mitigate them to promote positive mental health outcomes for young people.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who is an avid supporter of mental health awareness, warned Americans that depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems are caused primarily by social media. A report by the Office of the Surgeon General was released on June 20, which put a spotlight on how children's and adolescents’ mental health is negatively affected by social media use. The notice was directed toward policymakers and social media companies to inform parents of the risks that come with their children using social media. The report stated that about 95% of teenagers from ages 13 to 17 stated that they use social media. Furthermore, one-third of them said their “almost constantly” active on these platforms. According to the Pew Research Center, the most popular social media platforms among teens today are TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram.

"At this point, we do not have enough evidence to say with confidence that social media is sufficiently safe for our kids, said Murthy in an interview. "We have to now take action to make sure that we are protecting our kids." In the report, research shows a correlation between social media and declining mental health. A study in 2019 showed that teens "faced double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression and anxiety” if they spent more than three hours a day on social media. Murthy made this warning as teenage mental health issues have risen over the past ten years, which has been especially prevalent amongst teen girls. 

Many social media platforms require the user to be at least 13 years of age, but from between the ages of 8 and 12, 40% of them use social media. Although there isn’t enough data to conclude what the appropriate age is to use social media, Murthy believes that 13 years old is far too young to do so. Parents are at the forefront of helping guide teen social media use. The report also emphasizes the importance of parents talking with them about how they feel when using social media.

"Policymakers need to step up and help ensure that we have strong safety standards, to help protect our kids from exposure to harmful content, and to also protect them from excessive use," the surgeon general said. 

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