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Social media is fueling mental health crisis among young, says Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy


In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a strong warning about the mental health risks associated with social media use among adolescents. Describing the situation as a “mental health crisis,” Dr. Murthy highlighted the alarming statistic that adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media are twice as likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. The average daily social media use among this age group is currently 4.8 hours​ (

Dr. Murthy proposed a Surgeon General’s warning label on social media platforms to highlight these potential harms, drawing a parallel to tobacco warning labels which have successfully increased awareness and changed behavior.

“It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents,” Dr. Murthy wrote. He pointed out that 76% of Latino parents surveyed would limit or monitor their children’s social media use if such a warning were in place​ (​.

For Indian American families, this warning holds particular significance. Cultural pressures to excel academically and socially can amplify the negative impacts of social media. According to recent data, Asian American adolescents face unique stressors such as parental pressure to succeed, discrimination, and the challenge of balancing two cultures. These factors contribute to higher rates of anxiety and depression, yet Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health services compared to their white counterparts​.

Dr. Murthy shared personal concerns as a parent: “As a father of a 6- and a 7-year-old who have already asked about social media, I worry about how my wife and I will know when to let them have accounts. How will we monitor their activity, given the increasingly sophisticated techniques for concealing it? How will we know if our children are being exposed to harmful content or dangerous people? It’s no wonder that when it comes to managing social media for their kids, so many parents are feeling stress and anxiety — and even shame”​.

Research from the University of Maryland highlighted several mental health concerns among Asian American young adults, including the stigma surrounding mental health issues, lack of awareness about available resources, and language barriers. These challenges are compounded by the negative experiences Asian American youths face online, such as cyberbullying and racial discrimination.(Common Dreams)​.

Dr. Murthy’s advisory calls for comprehensive measures to make social media safer for children. This includes legislation to protect young people from online harassment, abuse, and exposure to harmful content. It also recommends restricting features like push notifications and infinite scroll that contribute to excessive use. Additionally, social media companies should be required to share data on health effects with independent researchers and allow safety audits to ensure transparency and accountability​.

“Why is it that we have failed to respond to the harms of social media when they are no less urgent or widespread than those posed by unsafe cars, planes or food?” Dr Murthy asks in his op-ed. “These harms are not a failure of willpower and parenting; they are the consequence of unleashing powerful technology without adequate safety measures, transparency or accountability”​.

Parents play a crucial role in mitigating these risks. Dr. Murthy suggests creating phone-free zones at home, especially around bedtime and meals, to encourage real-life connections and safeguard sleep. He also advises waiting until after middle school to allow children access to social media. Schools should support these efforts by ensuring that learning and social interactions are phone-free experiences​.

The call to action from Dr. Murthy is a reminder of the urgent need to protect the mental health of our youth in the digital age. For Indian American families, understanding and addressing the unique cultural and social pressures their children face can help mitigate the negative impacts of social media and promote healthier digital habits​.

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