Would social media warning labels work?

Would social media warning labels work?

Would a warning label stop you from using social media? That’s what the U.S. Surgeon General is prescribing to stem what he’s calling a mental health crisis.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently recommended that social media platforms should state they are associated with significant mental health harm for adolescents. The surgeon general’s warning would regularly remind users that social media has not been proven safe.

At its best, social media platforms have a transformational power to bring people and ideas together. At its worst, social media can be a forum for disagreement, bullying and hate.

What’s more, social media can be extremely addictive and unhealthy.

The surgeon general cites evidence from studies involving tobacco users, showing warning labels can increase awareness and change behavior.

“I would support any action that would highlight any risk,” says Dr. Munther Barakat, the director of behavioral health with Aurora Health Care. “When research starts to show us signs or evidence that there is a negative impact of social media use, there should be a movement to let individuals know the risks that are involved with overconsumption.”

Kids aged 12-15 that use social media three or more hours per day are twice as likely to develop a mental health diagnosis. However, this is counterbalanced by the benefits of online networks. Social media can help adolescents learn, develop creativity and find a sense of belonging.

“Because there are so many positives, you can’t have a blanket statement that totally limits social media use,” says Dr. Barakat.

While a surgeon general’s warning needs approval from Congress, there are some steps parents can take to make sure their kids are interacting with social media channels appropriately.

“Parents should have an open conversation with their child and understand the risks social media can present,” says Dr. Barakat. “Rather than coming at kids in an aggressive manner or setting a strict limit on social media usage, ask them ‘do you notice that you’re on social media a lot’ or ‘how does being online make you feel?’

From there, you can both get a deeper understanding of how they’re interacting online and ensure they’re using social media in a healthy and responsible way.”

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About the Author

Matt Queen
Matt Queen

Matt Queen, health enews contributor, is a communication coordinator at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee. He is a former TV sports anchor and journalist with extensive public relations experience across the health care spectrum. Outside of work, Matt enjoys watching sports (of course), cooking, gardening, golfing and spending time with his wife and two young children.