Top US health expert recommends limiting social networking to teens | Community

Three young men use their mobile phones outside the New York Fashion Week 2022 show.
Three young men use their mobile phones outside the New York Fashion Week 2022 show.Alexei Rosenfeld (Getty Images)

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the chief health authority in Joe Biden’s government, published an opinion on Tuesday calling for restricting minors’ access to social networks. The recommendation is due to “growing concern” among parents, researchers and experts about the impact of the digital environment on young people’s mental health. “Our children and teens can’t afford to wait until we know their fingerprints,” says the Department of Health’s Surgeon General, referring to the networks. The official admits his “concern” about the way these platforms are designed and used to engage young people, which could affect their brain development, especially in adolescents, if taken without supervision.

Social network damage depends on exposure time. With a near universal presence among minors, 95% of the population aged 13-17 say they use it and also find benefits in it. Among the benefits, teens say they feel more accepted, are the best channel to find help in difficult times and a good place to expose their more creative sides.

However, health experts warn of the mental health problems that can be caused by more than three hours a day of using these platforms. That time is long enough to double the risk of anxiety and depression bubbling to the surface and hardly the basis for consumption in apps, according to a 2021 survey that set 3.5 hours as the average. scroll Connected. Networking abuse can also affect physical balance with eating disorders, cause social complexes and lower self-esteem, especially among girls. A third of women between the ages of 11 and 15 said they feel addicted to some social network.

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It is the responsibility of the government, Murthy argues, to provide the tools to navigate the swampy waters of the digital ecosystem. In a reflection that is repeated more and more in Washington, the expert believes that technology is not doing enough to build safe spaces for children and adolescents. The doctor wonders why the authorities don’t take apps and social networks as seriously as they take games or new drugs. In these cases, products that reach the market are subjected to third-party testing to minimize potential harm to consumers. The document states that “a priority approach must be taken to the safety of social networking products, given the mounting evidence of the risk of harm they pose to some children and adolescents”.

Tochi Iroku-Malize, president of the Family Physicians Association, found that while social media is a powerful tool for staying connected, it can also trigger feelings of “depression and anxiety” among teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics shares the concern that “the digital world was not built with the healthy mental development of children in mind.”

Fighting cyberbullying

Parents acknowledge that guiding minors in the context of excessive connectivity and easy access to technology is increasingly complex. 70% of those responsible for parenting today consider it a more difficult task than it was 20 years ago, and the main reasons are social networks and digital coexistence. Eight out of ten also think tech companies should do more to protect minors from inappropriate content. 64% of teens say they have been exposed to hateful content online.

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The document calls for these companies to be transparent and share their research findings with independent experts and the general public, set a minimum age for using the platforms, and prioritize mental health and safety in product design and development. Some lawmakers and experts said it was important to stick to the age of 13 that various platforms have proposed as the minimum user age. Age, rather than being a condition, was taken as a guide, given that 40% of children between the ages of 8 and 12 in the United States use social networks.

Other analysts believe that this age should be exceeded at 16 years. In addition, the report recommends that business leaders create committees of scholars and professionals who can advise on how to create safe spaces for minors while they are online.

The 25-page report also notes that parents have a plan in place that sets limits and rules for using the platforms and protects personal data. The most relevant health official in the Democratic administration advises cutting out use of cell phones, tablets, and computers at least one hour before bedtime, because these electronic devices “interfer with sleep.” Another point emphasized was the need to educate minors about the steps they should take if they are victims Cyber ​​bullying and abuse through mail, text messages, online games, social networks, or if contacted by an adult who requests nudity or explicit images. Almost six out of ten girls have been approached by strangers online, who have made them feel uncomfortable. In the United States, some organizations such as the Cyber ​​Tipline or Take it Down help victims of these cases. “Tell at least one person you trust the most if you’ve been a victim of abuse, don’t keep it a secret,” says the document, which was released expressly for tech, politicians and families to take precautions.

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