May 22, 2024

Warning! Social Media may be Impacting Your Child's Mental Health


In 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory warning that children using social media are susceptible to mental health and other safety risks, including feelings of isolation and depression. In fact, research shows that adolescents who spend more than 3 hours per day on social media face double the risk of poor mental health outcomes. (JAMA Psychiatry, 2019). 

"Frequent social media use may be associated with distinct changes in the developing brain in the amygdala (important for emotional learning and behavior) and the prefrontal cortex (important for impulse control, emotional regulation, and moderating social behavior." (Social Media and Youth Mental Health, The U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory).

Social media apps use sophisticated algorithms to manipulate users into staying for longer periods of time by serving up content that is tailored to their interests. These algorithms may fuel large psychological issues as they can pick up on serious behaviors such as self-harm, eating disorders and suicidal tendencies, etc., and then continuously funnel similar accounts toward that user.

Lawmakers are taking notice of these concerns. Regulators in the United Kingdom are calling on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to "tame toxic algorithms" to prevent kids from seeing content related to suicide, self-harm, eating disorders, and pornography. (Reuters, May 9, 2024).This content includes:

  • Pornographic content, and content which encourages, promotes, or provides instructions for suicide, self-harm, and eating disorders 
  • Content which is abusive or incites hatred or bullying content 
  • Content which encourages, promotes, or provides instructions for violence, dangerous stunts and challenges, and self-administering harmful substances

Social Media: By The Numbers

  • Greater social media use predicted poor sleep, online harassment, poor body image, low self-esteem, and higher depressive symptom scores (EClinicalMedicine. 2019). 
  • Up to 95% of youth ages 13–17 report using a social media platform, with more than a third saying they use social media “almost constantly.” (Pew Research Center, 2022)
  • Although age 13 is commonly the required minimum age used by social media platforms in the U.S., nearly 40% of children ages 8–12 use social media. (Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens, 2021) 

Download Social Media 101 Quick Guide for Free!

This free guide outlines risks as well as safety and prevention guidelines to protect your kids on social media. 

Since Big Tech companies don't verify ages to keep under-aged kids off social media sites, it's imperative for parents to make sure that kids under 13 are NOT on these sites. 

Download and Print Here!

Protecting Kids Online - It Takes Us All


The Surgeon General's advisory offers recommendations stakeholders CAN take to help ensure children and their families have the information and tools necessary to make social media safer for children. EIE has been spearheading national campaigns and initiatives for more than a decade, addressing each of the areas outlined below, and believes the following MUST be addressed:

Policymakers MUST take steps to strengthen safety standards and limit access in ways that make social media safer for children, protect children’s privacy, support digital and media literacy, and fund additional research.

Technology companies MUST make design and development decisions that prioritize safety and health – including protecting children’s privacy and age verification technology– and improve systems to provide effective and timely responses to complaints.

Parents and caregivers, in order to be the First Line of Defense, MUST implement safety and prevention measures to prevent the online exploitation of their children, includingestablishing tech-free zones that better foster in-person relationships, teach kids about responsible online behavior and model that behavior, and report problematic content and activity. (See "Social Media Quick Guide" above for additional information and support!)

Children and adolescents MUST be coached and encouraged to adopt healthy practices like limiting time on platforms, block unwanted content, be careful about sharing personal information, and reach out to a trusted adult if they (or a friend) need help or see harassment or abuse on the platforms. 

UPDATE! Senators Graham (S.C) and Durbin (IL) plan to go to the Senate floor this afternoon to call for the immediate and unanimous passage of legislation to combat the sexual exploitation of children online and hold Big Tech accountable. They are expected to call for the passage of the EARN IT and STOP CSAM today! Stay tuned for more information!

EIE will continue to advocate for a package of child online protection bills, including the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). KOSA would establish protections for children from harmful algorithms and encourage safer online communications. We're looking for the House of Representatives to move this legislation across the finish line! It already has 68 bipartisan cosponsors in the Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Would you take a moment to contact your representative now and let him or her know how critical it is that KOSA (HR 7819) be passed? Your advocacy will go a long way in helping to keep our children safer online!