US Surgeon General Calls for Tobacco-Like Warning Labels for Social Media


The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is calling for stricter rules governing social media in order to protect the mental health of teenagers, calling it the “defining public health challenge of our time.” Experts have long been reporting that social media is harming the mental health of the younger generation and it is time to crack down on its availability to teens. Dr. Murthy compared social media to cigarettes, and suggested apps such as Tiktok, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram should come with “red label” health warnings attached.

Dr. Murthy’s call comes as many parents in our community and throughout the world worry about how social media affects young people. Due to the addictive nature of social media, the amount of time teens spend online every day is ever-increasing. This can lead to problems like anxiety and depression. Social media often shows unrealistic images and ideas, which can make teens have poor self image and other mental health struggles. They also face cyberbullying and the pressure to be perfect.

Studies show that social media can disrupt sleep and reduce face-to-face interactions. This can harm teens’ development and well-being. Dr. Murthy said parents and policymakers need to act now to protect children. He suggested limiting screen time and making social media companies take more responsibility for the ways in which their apps are being made available to children.

Although social media companies have said they are working on ways to make their platforms safer for young users and have instituted parental control options, many argue that it is too little too late and that more needs to be done. The Surgeon General’s warning is the latest step in a growing movement to address the mental health crisis among young people. The warnings would appear in users’ social media feeds and various wordings and types of messaging would be tested to see which would be the most effective.

When we think back to the previous generation and how so many people smoked without knowing the dangers, only later to suffer from ailments such as lung cancer, it is frightening to think that the epidemic of today may be right in front of our eyes, literally.

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