As behavioral healthcare professionals, we understand that there is a national youth mental health crisis, and that we must all work together to help protect the health of our young people. It’s not shocking to learn that social media use among young people is nearly universal, with up to 95% of teenagers, and even 40% of children aged 8-12, on social media. However, we do not yet have enough evidence to determine that social media use is sufficiently safe for them. In fact, we know that social media use can be excessive and harmful.

The U.S. surgeon general recently called on Congress to require warning labels on social media platforms and their effects on young people’s lives, similar to those now mandatory on cigarette boxes. Dr. Vivek Murthy said that social media is a contributing factor in the mental health crisis among young people.

“It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents. A surgeon general’s warning label, which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe,” Murthy said. “Evidence from tobacco studies show that warning labels can increase awareness and change behavior.”

Of course, the warning label on social media would require congressional approval, and would receive pushback from tech companies. For more information on social media and youth mental health, read the Surgeon General’s advisory: surgeongeneral.gov/ymh-social-media.

U.S. Surgeon General Calls for Warning Labels on Social Media