Surgeon general: 13-year-olds too young to join social media

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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday cautioned that, despite many app guidelines, 13-year-olds are too young to join social media.

“What is the right age for a child to start using social media? I worry that right now, if you look at the guidelines from the platforms, that age 13 is when kids are technically allowed to use social media. But there are two concerns I have about that. One is: I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early,” Murthy said on CNN’s “Newsroom.”

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other top social media platforms allow users age 13 and older to join, create their own profiles and share and consume content.

“It’s a time, you know, early adolescence, where kids are developing their identity, their sense of self. 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,” the surgeon general argued.

Murthy’s second concern is about the inconsistent implementation of many of the rules, and the reliance on children who use social media to moderate their own participation on the platform.

“We have some of the best designers and product developers in the world who have designed these products to make sure people are maximizing the amount of time they spend on these platforms. And if we tell a child, ‘Use the force of your willpower to control how much time you’re spending [on social media],’ you’re pitting a child against the world’s greatest product designers and that’s just not a fair fight. And so that’s why I think our kids need help,” Murthy said.

Murthy’s comments come amid ongoing concerns in Congress about the video-sharing app TikTok — its ties to the Chinese Communist Party and its potential dangers to children and their data.

Researchers and lawmakers alike have long debated both the health and security risks for children consuming social media content and sharing their own data on the apps.

The surgeon general called for increased transparency from social media platforms and safety standards for apps before they hit the digital marketplace.

“In my house right now, the vast majority of products that you know that we buy that I use have some type to meet some sort of safety standards in order to be sold. That is not true in general of social media,” Murthy said.

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