Social Media Mental Health Warnings Should Be Required To Protect Teens: U.S. Surgeon General

Surgeon General says social media is contributing to a mental health crisis among U.S. teens, increasing the risks of depression, anxiety and suicide.

The U. S. Surgeon General is calling for social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to carry new warnings that alert parents and users to the risks of mental health side effects, which disproportionately impact teens and adolescents.

In an opinion piece published in The New York Times on Monday, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy warned that there is a mental health crisis among young Americans, and indicated social media is a significant contributor to the problem. As a result, Murthy called for Congress to give him the power to require a surgeon general’s warning on all social media platforms, like those required on packages of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The editorial comes about a year after Murthy testified before a Senate committee about the social media mental health problem, and issued a Surgeon General Advisory warning that the effects of social media are still not yet fully understood, but are clearly having a negative impact on the mental health of U.S. youth.

“The mental health crisis among young people is an emergency – and social media has emerged as an important contributor,” Murthy said in the New York Times editorial. “Adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media face double the risk of anxiety and depression symptoms, and the average daily use in this age group, as of the summer of 2023, was 4.8 hours.”

Social Media Lawsuits

The call for warning labels comes as a number of social media addiction lawsuits have been brought against Meta and other internet companies, such as Alphabet Inc., Google LLC, YouTube LLC, Snap. Inc., TikTok Inc. and ByteDance Inc., each raising similar claims that the platforms are intentionally designed to manipulate and maximize user time and engagement, as well as the type of content they view.

The lawsuits claim these tactics cause addiction and self-destructive behavior among teens, resulting in anxiety, depression, eating disorders and psychological damage that has led to attempted or actual suicides, especially among young girls.

Each of the social media platform giants have been accused of ignoring clear evidence about the harmful consequences of their behavior, indicating that they have refused to do anything to prevent the addiction and emotional distress, since it would directly impact the profits generated.

Social Media Addiction Lawsuit

Have you or a loved one developed a social media addiction?

Lawyers provide free consultations and claim evaluations for teens and young adults who have experienced depression, anxiety, eating disorders or other mental health problems resulting from social media addiction.

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Last year, Murthy called on Congress to help provide children with adequate health coverage, and thus mental health coverage, to address mental health challenges early. He also called for focusing on prevention with early intervention programs and school and community-based tools.

However, Murthy also urged lawmakers to take action immediately to protect children from potential risks from social media, indicating that age-appropriate health and safety standards should be developed, as well as limiting access to social media in ways that makes them safer for children of all ages.

In addition, the Surgeon General said lawmakers should require social media platforms to do a better job of protecting children’s privacy, conduct more research into social media harms, and also called for school curricula to include education on media literacy.

Now, he is calling on Congress to mandate social media label warnings to help give parents reminders of the risks of youth mental health problems associated with social media platforms.

“The moral test of any society is how well it protects its children,” Murthy wrote. “We have the expertise, resources and tools to make social media safe for our kids. Now is the time to summon the will to act. Our children’s well-being is at stake.”

June 2024 Social Media Addiction Lawsuit Update

Since last year, more than 400 teen social media addiction lawsuits have been brought against Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat have been centralized for pretrial proceedings under U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California.

As part of the pretrial management, Judge Rogers is planning to hold several bellwether trials, to help the parties gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

In a pretrial order issued earlier this year, the parties were directed to identify prospective bellwether discovery pool cases by April 15, and case-specific discovery for those claims will be completed by December 20. It is then expected that the Court will work with the parties to select the first cases for bellwether trials by February 6, 2025, with the first teen social media addiction lawsuit trial currently scheduled to go before a jury on October 14. 2025.

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