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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned Sunday that children under 16 should not be allowed on social media.
He said websites such as TikTok and Instagram distort children’s sense of self and make them unable to deal with criticism as adults.
Dr Murthy’s comments come as research continues to pile up, showing the pitfalls of young people using social media.
Studies have linked teenage social media use to eating disorders, depression, anxiety, poor grades, and other negative impacts on young people.
‘I believe 13 is too early,’ Dr Murthy told CNN Newsroom over the weekend.
‘And I think that it’s a time, early adolescence, where kids are developing their identity, their sense of self…And the skewed and distorted environment of social media does a disservice to many children.’
In an interview with CNN, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy (pictured) warned parents against letting their children use social media before the age of 16
The surgeon general told a tragic story about a 11-year-old girl who committed suicide after she was ‘mercilessly’ cyber bullied on several of her social media accounts.
‘I recently had a mother who came to visit me in my office who told me a deeply tragic story about her daughter.
‘Her daughter had started using social media, had seven accounts on three different platforms, was mercilessly bullied, unfortunately, by people on these platforms, struggled to get off of these but could not.
‘She felt hooked onto them.’
Murthy further urged parents to join forces and ban their kids from using social media until they are older.
‘If your child is the only one who’s not using social media but everyone else in their school is, it’s a tough position for your child to be in,’ Murthy said.
‘But if parents can ban together and say, as a group, we’re not going to allow our kids to use social media until 16 or 17 or 18 or whatever the age is they choose, that’s a much more effective strategy, making sure your kids don’t get exposed to harm early.’
Repeated studies have linked social media use in young people to harmful long-term negative side effects.
A 2020 report by researchers from Johns Hopkins University linked the surge in teen mental health issues in the 2000s to the advent of social media.
Another Johns Hopkins team found in 2019 that students who spend more than three hours per day on social media platforms show more significant risks of severe mental health problems.
Researchers found a strong link between time spent on social media and the likelihood of developing depression when looking at more than two-dozen studies.
In 2020, researchers at Rochester University found that getting few likes on a social media post can induce anxiety in teens.
Last year, researchers at MIT found anxiety and depression rates are higher in college communities where Facebook is more prevalent.
Body image issues from social media, particularly tied to apps such as Instagram, have also been linked to eating disorders.
A 2016 study led by the University of Pittsburgh found a ‘strong and consistent association’ between social media use and eating disorders.