The advisory says social media can cause body image issues, affect eating behavior and sleep quality, and lead to social comparison and low self-esteem
“We are in the midst of a national youth health crisis and I am concerned that social media is a major driver of that crisis – one that we urgently need to address,” the advisory reads. “The most common question parents ask me is, ‘Is social media safe for my kids?’ The answer is we don’t have enough evidence to say it’s safe, and in fact there’s mounting evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health.”
Citing a survey of adolescents, the advice says social media can cause and maintain body image issues, affect eating behavior and sleep quality, and lead to social comparison and low self-esteem, especially in young girls. Adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media are also twice as likely to have poor mental health outcomes, such as symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Most adolescents also said that social media helps them feel more accepted, more supportive in difficult times, more connected to their friends and more creative. The advisory says policymakers should strengthen safety standards in a way that extends these benefits to children of all ages, noting that inappropriate and harmful content is easily and widely accessible to children.
“More research is needed to fully understand the impact of social media; however, the current body of evidence indicates that while social media may have benefits for some children and adolescents, there is ample evidence that social media may also pose a high risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents,” the advisory states.”At this time, we don’t yet have enough evidence to determine whether social media is sufficiently safe for children and adolescents.”
The advisory also urges tech companies to adhere to age limits to control access to social media and to be transparent about data about the impact of their products on children. Algorithms and platform design should instead try to maximize the potential benefits of social media rather than features designed to get users to spend more time on it. It also suggests that researchers further prioritize research into social media and youth mental health that “can support the establishment of standards and evaluation of best practices to support children’s health.”
Parents and carers are advised to establish technology-free zones that better foster face-to-face relationships, teach children about responsible online behavior and model that behavior, and report problematic content and activities.
For children and adolescents, the advisory recommends that they adopt healthy practices such as limiting time on platforms, blocking unwanted content, being aware of sharing personal information, and not disclosing it to an adult or tell authority if they or a friend need help or see harassment or abuse. on social media.
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