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Surgeon General: We shouldn't allow 13-year-olds on social media

Recent research has shown frequent checking of social media can affect the development of adolescent brains.
Credit: AP
FILE - Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, on youth mental health care. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Sunday he believes 13-year-olds shouldn't have access to social media, citing the damaging effects the platforms can have on their mental health. 

Most social media platforms, including major ones such as Twitter and Instagram, currently require users to be 13 or older to make an account. But most sites rely on the honor system to verify age, meaning younger children often have accounts. 

Murthy, the nation's top doctor, spoke on CNN Newsroom this weekend about his concerns about social media and young teens. 

“I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early," he said. "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."

Research published earlier this year indicates that frequent checking of social media can change how adolescent brains develop. The rise of social media has also coincided with the growth of mental health concerns among young people, including issues around body image and anxiety. 

Murthy acknowledged that it would be difficult to keep children off social media, but said parents could band together to enforce the idea that young teens should stay away from the sites. 

“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,” he told CNN.

While Murthy's comments don't carry legal weight, they come as Congress and various government institutions raise concerns about TikTok, a popular social media app frequently used by young people. It has been banned from government devices in several states because of its ties to China's government and the potential dangers to children and their data.

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