Warning: Surgeon General Says Social Media Is Bad for Kids
But it would be even better if his warning included any unrestricted screen time using phones and tablets.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently issued a warning about social media use. Murthy’s 25-page report starts out conciliatory, saying that teens do get some benefits from using social media. Those supposed benefits are self-expression and connecting with other LGBTQ+ youth (“benefit” is not the word a non-leftist would use, to say the least).
However, Murthy also strongly stated: “Increasingly, evidence is indicating there is reason to be concerned about the risk of harm social media use poses to children and adolescents. Children and adolescents on social media are commonly exposed to extreme, inappropriate, and harmful content, and those who spend more than three hours a day on social media face double the risk of poor mental health including experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.”
According to the report, 95% — nearly all — of teenagers report using social media. Most use it constantly, as is evident when you see teens in the wild. Their faces are glued to that addictive screen in their pockets. But teens aren’t the only users; young children are also exposed to social media: Forty percent of eight- to 12-year-olds have social media access.
Murthy isn’t alone in his stance. Many bipartisan elected officials have sponsored bills both in the states and in Congress. The main tenor of these bills is to put restrictions in place to protect children under the age of 18.
Another interesting twist is that the American Psychological Association recently released a health advisory that stated, “Using social media is not inherently beneficial or harmful to young people.” That conclusion seems shocking — even a blind person with half a brain who has a teen hooked on social media can see that this is patently untrue.
It’s interesting that this sudden bipartisan agreement on the social media dilemma is finally getting acknowledgement and agreement from a Biden-appointed surgeon general. It’s particularly interesting to note this stance in the wake of the TikTok discussions in Congress. The Democrats are caught between a rock and a hard place with apps like TikTok. On the one hand, their main dissemination of information (or misinformation) to younger demographics is through apps like TikTok. Why would they ban a lucrative and effective propaganda station? On the other hand, they can try to restrict free speech by regulating social media.
Perhaps this is a cynical position, but it is a rare Democrat that sees a problem for what it actually is.
Social media is, for sure, a gigantic part of the screen-time problem. However, screen time in general poses a bigger threat to our children — particularly if that screen time is imbibed via a personal device (phone or tablet). It’s not good for children’s developing brains.
It’s because of the way that interacting with phones or tablets gives us (or our kids) a dopamine hit, which is addictive and inhibits (and manipulates) brain growth. Not only does screen time with devices become addictive, but it leads to actual rerouting of neurons in the brain and compromises children developmentally.
As our children grow, they are developing part of their brain. The prefrontal cortex — the part that deals with executive functioning — has been demonstrated to shrink with the exposure and prolonged use of screens (particularly personal devices). What is developing in the prefrontal cortex? That part of the brain controls impulses, decision-making, and acts as the working memory — where we draw from our long-term memory or maintain events that just occurred.
Not yet convinced? For more in-depth analysis, check out Allie Beth Stuckey’s podcast interview with Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, a psychologist and one of the country’s foremost experts on addiction and the brain who has studied this subject extensively.
Then add in the other harmful side effects of extensive screen time use such as blue light exposure that causes harm to eyes; the risk of developing obesity from sitting around all day instead of playing; and the mental health complications caused by social media’s exponential mind-melting power.
Give your children the world, not a screen, because then you’ll find that they will start to create and grow a world within their mind.
Let them be like the children in the poem “The Swing” by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped:
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
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