SCIENCE + TECHNOLOGY

Surgeon General says 13 is ‘too early’ to join social media

Jan 30, 2023, 1:00 PM

(CNN) — U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says he believes 13 is too young for children to be on social media platforms because although sites allow children of that age to join, kids are still “developing their identity.”

Meta, Twitter, and a host of other social media giants currently allow 13-year-olds to join their platforms.

“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 said on “CNN Newsroom.”

The number of teenagers on social media has sparked alarm among medical professionals, who point to a growing body of research about the harm such platforms can cause adolescents.

Murthy acknowledged the difficulties of keeping children off these platforms given their popularity, but suggested parents can find success by presenting a united front.

“If parents can band together and say you know, as a group, we’re not going to allow our kids to use social media until 16 or 17 or 18 or whatever age they choose, that’s a much more effective strategy in making sure your kids don’t get exposed to harm early,” he told CNN.

Teenagers especially at risk

New research suggests habitually checking social media can alter the brain chemistry of adolescents.

According to a study published this month in JAMA Pediatrics, students who checked social media more regularly displayed greater neural sensitivity in certain parts of their brains, making their brains more sensitive to social consequences over time.

Psychiatrists like Dr. Adriana Stacey have pointed to this phenomenon for years. Stacey, who works primarily with teenagers and college students, previously told CNN using social media releases a “dopamine dump” in the brain.

“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,” she said. “For teenagers in particular, this part of their brain is actually hyperactive compared to adults. They can’t get motivated to do anything else.”

Recent studies demonstrate other ways excessive screen time can impact brain development. In young children, for example, excessive screen time was significantly associated with poorer emerging literacy skills and the ability to use expressive language.

Lawmakers are paying attention

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who recently published an op-ed in the Bulwark about loneliness and mental health, echoed the surgeon general’s concerns about social media. “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,” Murphy told CNN in an interview alongside Murthy.

For both Murphy and Murthy, the issue of social media addiction is personal. Both men are fathers — Murphy to teenagers and Murthy to young children. “It’s not coincidental that Dr. Murthy and I are probably talking more about this issue of loneliness more than others in public life,” Murphy told CNN. “I look at this through the prism of my 14-year-old and my 11-year-old.”

As a country, Murphy explained, the U.S. is not powerless in the face of Big Tech. Lawmakers could make different decisions about limiting young kids from social media and incentivizing companies to make algorithms less addictive.

The surgeon general similarly addressed addictive algorithms, explaining pitting adolescents against Big Tech is “just not a fair fight.” He told CNN, “You 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, you’re pitting a child against the world’s greatest product designers.”

Despite the hurdles facing parents and kids, Murphy struck a note of optimism about the future of social media.

“None of this is out of our control. When we had dangerous vehicles on the road, we passed laws to make those vehicles less dangerous,” he told CNN. “We should make decisions to make [social media] a healthier experience that would make kids feel better about themselves and less alone.”


The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Science + Technology

Rare earth minerals...

Don Brinkerhoff

Rare earth minerals found in Utah, Colorado, are critical for cleaner energy sources

Rare earth minerals have been found in Utah and Colorado mines according to University of Utah researchers.

11 hours ago

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), in collaboration with Utah State University (USU), su...

Diana Jones

Vertiports: The future is coming to Utah sooner rather than later

The Utah Department of Transportation, or UDOT, is pushing Utah into the future by taking steps to integrate vertiports around the state. But what are they? 

4 days ago

The European Union is about to enact strict new rules to try to prevent misuse of Artificial Intell...

Simone Seikaly

New AI rules for the EU, but the loneliness remains

As the European Union adopts strict rules for Artificial Intelligence, some in America question if AI can replace loneliness.

7 days ago

a helicopter shown, vertiport demonstration tonight...

Sam Herrera

LISTEN: UDOT and USU to conduct vertiport demonstration

The Utah Department of Transportation and Utah State University will conduct the state's first vertiport demonstration Monday night.

8 days ago

The sun is rising with a flare over Korla, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China, on May 10....

Brian Fung, CNN

Why tonight’s massive solar storm could disrupt communications and GPS systems

An unusual amount of solar activity due to a solar storm this week could disrupt some of the most important technologies society relies on.

18 days ago

Boeing's Starliner capsule sits atop an Atlas V rocket as it's rolled out to the launchpad on May 4...

Jackie Wattles, CNN

How to watch the first crewed flight of Boeing’s long-awaited Starliner spacecraft

Boeing’s spaceflight program may reach a milestone Monday night with the launch of its Starliner spacecraft.

23 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Surgeon General says 13 is ‘too early’ to join social media