Surgeon General Vivek Murthy believes 13 years old is just too early to join social media.
Nowadays, social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter have allowed users to register as long as they’re at least 13 years old.
According to Murthy, this may result in adolescents having a “distorted” sense of who they are throughout critical developmental years.
“I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early,” he told CNN. “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.”
Teenagers who use social media will become hypersensitive as adults, Murthy suggested.
Medical professionals are quite concerned about teenagers’ use of social media because of studies that show a connection between social media and youth depression.
Given these platforms’ rising popularity among peers, Murthy is aware that it will be difficult to keep children off them, but he thinks parents should maintain their stance in order to help protect their kids.
He said, “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.”
When children are on platforms at too young an age, Murthy warns that they may develop insecurities and become vulnerable to bullies.
Murthy said that one mother had come to his office and told him of the tragic suicide of her 11-year-old daughter after she was “mercilessly” cyberbullied.
“Her daughter had started using social media, had seven accounts on three different platforms, was mercilessly bullied, unfortunately, by people on these platforms, struggled to get off of these but could not.”
Earlier this month, JAMA Pediatrics pointed out that social media reprograms adolescent brains.
A study was conducted in North Carolina on 178 12-year-olds to determine how often they check social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Afterward, they participated in an experiment in which they waited for social rewards to see how their brains responded.
“Our findings suggest that checking behaviors on social media in early adolescence may tune the brain’s sensitivity to potential social rewards and punishments,” said Dr. Eva Telzer, co-author of the study and a professor in developmental psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.