APA urges adults to limit kids’ social media use

May 10, 2023, 12:00 PM

tiktok logo is shown, kids' social media use is under scrutiny from health officials...

FILE - The TikTok logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen which displays the TikTok home screen, Saturday, March 18, 2023, in Boston. Montana became the first state in the country to ban TikTok. Dave and Dujanovic discuss if Utah will be the next state to do the same. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — The American Psychological Association, APA, has issued a health advisory calling for social media literacy training for kids, among other recommendations. The guidelines are focused less on eliminating social media use among teens and more on equipping them with healthy skills. 

The recommendations

The APA advisory gives ten recommendations in total:

  1. Kids should use social media to find peers that they can talk to and become friends with.
  2. Kids should not be using social media in the same way adults do. Parents should figure out what social media usage is appropriate depending on their kids’ ages.
  3. Parents of kids around 10 to 14 years old should keep an eye on social media habits without invading their kid’s privacy. And, parents should have continued, open communication with their kids about social media.
  4. Seeing posts about dangerous behaviors like self-harm or disordered eating has a negative effect on kids. They should not be consuming that kind of content and social media should not be pushing that content onto them.
  5. Similarly, social media opens a door to potential bullying and harassment. Parents should find a way to protect their kids from this type of abuse.
  6. Parents should be paying attention to catch if social media starts to have a negative effect on their kids.
  7. Along with that, parents should set guidelines so that social media doesn’t start to affect their kids’ physical well-being.
  8. Kids should not make a habit of comparing themselves to others on social media.
  9. Educating kids on safe practices can prevent harmful social media usage.
  10. There should be a constant effort to understand the impact of social media on kids.

The report doesn’t totally malign social media.

“Social media is neither inherently harmful nor beneficial to our youth,” APA President Dr. Thema Bryant said. “But because young people mature at different rates, some are more vulnerable than others to the content and features on many social media platforms that science has demonstrated can influence healthy development.”

Bryant said that just like teens practicing to take a driver’s license test, they should also receive media literacy training. The report lists many skills that fall under the literacy category, including questioning the truth of statements made on social media, building and sustaining healthy online relationships, and critiquing racist content. 

The APA wrote that these guidelines are based on research readers can look at too. 

The politics

This advisory is coming to Utah at a difficult time for social media companies in Utah. On January 23, Gov. Spencer Cox and the Attorney General announced lawsuits “against everyone” for allegedly profiting from targeting algorithms at children. They did not name specific companies. 

“The problem is, just like the opioid companies… they knew how bad it was before we did,” Governor Cox said.  “Somebody needs to be held accountable to that” 

No charges have been made public since then, but the governor has brought up this future legal fight several times.

In March, Cox signed two bills into law that target social media companies. One, S.B.-152, requires minors to get their parent’s consent before they can use social media apps, and the other, H.B.-311, bans tech companies from “using a design or feature that causes a minor to have an addiction.” Together they form the new Utah Social Media Regulation Act.

Cox even took to Twitter to debate First Amendment lawyer Ari Cohn about whether his potential lawsuit could hold water. 

“Dreadfully disappointing that you think government can condition the First Amendment rights of anyone under 18 on the prior consent of a parent,” wrote Cohn. 

“See you in court,” Cox responded. 



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APA urges adults to limit kids’ social media use