Surgeon general report shows impacts of social media on youths

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 12:20 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The U.S. surgeon general released the 2023 report that shows the impacts of social media on the mental health of children.

It states because of the lack of research, we cannot determine that social media is completely safe and outlines steps we can take to lower the risk of harm during this period of brain development.

According to the report, up to 95% of teenagers, and 40% of children aged 8-12, are on social media.

Based on several factors, the advisory says social media has positive and negative impacts on children and impacts them in different ways.

The positives include serving as a bridge for groups that are often isolated, such as the LGBTQ+ community and people with disabilities. Social media can provide a safe space for these children to express themselves and feel accepted.

However, they say we should be concerned about the potential dangers. Children are exposed to sometimes inappropriate, and harmful content, and can face the risk of a decline in mental health, according to the report.

Studies have shown a connection between excessive social media use and poor sleep quality. One-third or more of young girls say they feel “addicted” to some social media platforms, according to the report.

The advisory says this content can influence body image issues, eating disorders, and low self-esteem.

According to the report, when asked about the impact of social media on their body image: 46% of those aged 13-17 said social media makes them feel worse, 40% said it makes them feel indifferent, and 14% said it makes them feel better.


The report says while more research is needed to fully understand the impacts, we should continue to move forward with action.

The report outlines some actions we can take to make social media safer and healthier. They say this will be a group effort between lawmakers, technology companies, parents, researchers and children.

They say lawmakers can strengthen safety standards, better protect children’s privacy, support digital and media literacy, and fund research.

Researchers can prioritize social media and mental health research that can support the formation of standards of best practices to support.

Technology companies can share data with researchers so we can continue to understand the impacts.

Parents and caregivers can have tech-free zones. According to the report, this can increase sleep quality. They can also teach children about responsible online behavior, and report problematic content.

Youth can limit social media time, block unwanted content, be careful about what they share and reach out if they need help.

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