Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has warned that 13-year-old children are too young to be on social media, even if a platform’s terms of service allow them to.
Murthy made the comments on Sunday during an appearance on CNN’s “Newsroom.”’
“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.
Nearly all of the top platforms, including TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook allow 13-year-olds to use them freely.
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“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 said.
Murray cautioned that children do not normally have the self-control to moderate how much time they spend on the site, when the top developers are looking to maximize their use.
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“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.
There are currently multiple lawsuits from families against Snapchat, Meta, and TikTok which allege that they have driven young users to suicides, eating disorders, and depression.
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“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.