U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy believes that age 13 is too young for children to start using social media, noting that their sense of self is still developing. Murthy gave his remarks on “CNN Newsroom,” saying,
I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early … It’s a time where it’s really important for us to be thoughtful about what’s going into how they think about their own self-worth and their relationships and the skewed and often distorted environment of social media often does a disservice to many of those children.”
Murthy’s remarks go hand in hand with a formidable body of research that shows the negative correlation between social media use and teens’ mental health. A CBS report on the matter also cited the work of psychiatrist Dr. Adriana Stacey, who works primarily with teens and young adults. Stacey said,
When we do things that are addictive like use cocaine or use smartphones, our brains release a lot of dopamine at once. It tells our brains to keep using that. For teenagers in particular, this part of their brain is actually hyperactive compared to adults. They can’t get motivated to do anything else.”
The CBS article also mentioned research that demonstrates how excessive screen time among children leads to poor literacy and language skills.
For what it’s worth, I got a Facebook page when I was 12, which shows you that there’s nothing keeping kids from lying about their age. That was a few years ago, now, long before a lot of this alarming research emerged. But to date, I wish I had evaded the social media and smartphone trap. Despite its popularity among classmates and its powerful illusion of social acceptance, social media contributed nothing to my ability to make and keep friends. It contributed greatly to the fear that I didn’t have enough friends.
Murthy was joined in a CNN TV interview with Senator Chris Murphy, who said,
We have lost something as a society, as so much of our life has turned into screen-to-screen communication, it just doesn’t give you the same sense of value and the same sense of satisfaction as talking to somebody or seeing someone.”
We’ve lost something indeed. Murphy and Murthy hope that parents will jointly mobilize across the country as more data on this issue accumulates. With more public figures speaking out against children using social media, perhaps more American citizens will act accordingly.