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Why US surgeon general wants warning label on social media

Let’s be honest, social media has been a mix of good and bad. Sure, it promised to connect us all in ways we never imagined, but let’s be realistic. The bad is starting to overshadow the good.

It’s interesting how depending on the year you were born, your outlook on this digital playground can be completely different. Some people choose to ignore the issue, thinking it’s “no big deal,” while others go to the extreme of ditching their smartphones for good-old flip phones to escape the social media frenzy. It’s as if we’re all trying to figure out our own social media survival strategies.

And then there are the parents. It can be tough, especially for those with teenage kids. They’re making rules faster than you can say “TikTok,” trying to keep their kids safe in this wild digital world. But the problem is, they feel like they’re running a never-ending race. Just when you think you’ve finally got the situation under control, another app or platform pops up and you’re back to square one. It’s like trying to nail jelly to a wall: It’s frustrating, tedious, and impossible.

Welcome, everyone, to the social media age where the only constant is change.

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Why the US Surgeon General wants social media to have warning labels

Mother and daughter looking at social media (Kurt “Cyberguy” Knutson)

The dangers of social media

Social media platforms have become an integral part of our daily lives, but their impact on mental health, productivity, and even politics is getting worse every year. While increased awareness of the issue is helping people learn how to set boundaries, it’s still impossible to predict what social media will bring next.

Here are some of the dangers of social media.

1) Exposure to scammers: Children and adolescents are vulnerable to online scams and fraud.

2) Excessive Screen Time: Prolonged social media use can lead to physical and mental health problems, including eye strain, poor posture and disrupted sleep patterns.

3) Dopamine Signaling: Frequent notifications can create addictive behavioral patterns, leading to increased anxiety and decreased focus.

4) Negative body imageSocial media often promotes unrealistic body standards, which can lead to body dissatisfaction and eating disorders.

5) CyberbullyingMany young people experience harassment and bullying online, which can lead to serious psychological distress.

6) Exposure to inaccurate news: The spread of misinformation and fake news on social media can affect the minds of young people and exacerbate anxiety and confusion.

How to remove your personal information from the internet

What the US Surgeon General wants to do

This isn’t the first time social media issues have come before the government: Recently, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called on Congress to introduce warning labels on social media apps to highlight the potential harms they pose to young people.

Murthy’s push for warning labels coincides with longstanding concerns from youth advocates and lawmakers who have criticized social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat for negative effects on kids, including contributing to mental health problems like anxiety, depression, cyberbullying, vulnerability to predators and, in the worst cases, suicide.

actual, NIH (National Institutes of Health)“…age-adjusted suicide rates have been steadily increasing in the United States over the past decade, making suicide the second leading cause of death among young people. Thus, the increase in suicide rates correlates with the concurrent increase in social media use. Additionally, rates of non-suicidal self-harm among young people range from 14% to 21%.”

Meanwhile, the article states, “New York state lawmakers passed a bill this month that would ban social media platforms from exposing “addictive” algorithmic content to users under the age of 18 without parental consent.”

How to protect yourself from social media scammers

Why the US Surgeon General wants social media to have warning labels

Teenagers looking at social media (Kurt “Cyberguy” Knutson)

Balancing the pros and cons of social media screen time

What will happen if this happens?

Of course, if the warning is approved by Congress, it will be some time before the “warning label” actually appears, and it’s unclear what it will actually look like. But if it is approved, here’s what could happen:

Strong Points:

Raising awarenessWarning labels could make parents and adolescents more aware of the potential mental health risks associated with social media use.

Behavioral changes: Similar to the effects of cigarette warning labels, these may encourage healthier social media habits and reduce use among vulnerable groups.

Pressure on social media companies: Companies may be forced to implement stricter safeguards and better content moderation practices to avoid legal and public relations issues.

Cons:

Pushback from tech companiesPowerful social media companies are likely to lobby against the bill, which could result in protracted court battles and delays to implementation.

Perceived as inadequateWarning labels alone are insufficient to address the deeper, systemic issue of social media’s impact on mental health and may be seen as a minimal effort.

Potential stigmaWarning labels can unintentionally stigmatize social media use and lead to fear and anxiety rather than informed, balanced use.

Why the US Surgeon General wants social media to have warning labels

Adults on Social Media (Kurt “Cyberguy” Knutson)

How can you protect yourself in the meantime?

Depending on your own stance on social media, the fact is that it can cause harm to many vulnerable people, especially children and teenagers. And even if you’re not in this demographic, if you’re struggling to manage your social media use, there are some ways to limit your time.

1) Set boundaries: This isn’t easy for everyone, but to prevent excessive use, aim to limit screen time and set specific times to check social media. You can check how much time you’re spending looking at screens by looking at the “Screen Time” feature on your device.

2) Manage your notifications: Turn off unnecessary notifications to reduce constant interruptions and the dopamine-fueled urge to check your phone.

3) Don’t post sensitive information online. Always be careful about the information and photos you put online, it’s never hard for someone to find you.

4) Log out of social media on your phone. Not having social media apps installed on your devices and logging off in your browser (it’s a bit of a pain when you can easily log back in with one click) can make it easier to stay away from social media.

5) Don’t take things personally: Social media can be a dangerous tool, and while harassment, stalking, and other abusive behavior should be reported to the authorities, most negative voices on social media are “trolls” – ignore them, don’t engage with them, and report them to the platform if necessary.

6) Set a block on your phone/laptop. If you don’t have much discipline when it comes to limiting your time on social media, that’s understandable. That’s why apps like Freedom There are actually restrictions in place that prevent you from logging into these sites.

7) Get a dumb phone: Many people have smartphones Dumb Phonethis helps you get away from social media.

8) Install parental controls: Mobile phones, laptops and other tablets have parental controls that allow parents to limit their children’s social media activity, but it’s also important to talk to your kids about the dangers of social media and set ground rules if you do allow their use. Get the top 4 kid monitoring programs of 2024.

How to stop sneaky social media notifications and take back control

Important points about the cart

Social media is fine when used appropriately, responsibly, and in moderation. But the potential harms of social media are important to take seriously, especially for parents and people who already suffer from anxiety or depression. Essentially, if social media is giving you more than it’s giving you, it may be time to rethink your relationship with social media platforms or at least put some limits on them.

Do you impose social media restrictions on yourself or your children? If so, what are your reasons? What do you think about putting warning labels on social media platforms? Email us and let us know. Cyberguy.com/Contact Us.

If you want to hear more of my tech tips and security alerts, subscribe to the free CyberGuy Report newsletter at the link below. Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

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