U.S. Surgeon General Social Media Guidelines
By BARBARA ORTUTAY
AP Technology Writer
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, is calling for “immediate action” by tech companies and lawmakers to protect kids’ and adolescents’ mental health on social media.
But after years of middling and insufficient action by both social media platforms and policymakers, parents and young people still bear most of the burden in navigating the fast-changing, often harmful world of secretive algorithms, addictive apps and extreme and inappropriate content found on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat.
So what can parents and young people do now? The surgeon general has some tips.
“Our children and adolescents don’t have the luxury of waiting years until we know the full extent of social media’s impact,” Murthy said in an advisory released on Tuesday. “Their childhoods and development are happening now:”
TIPS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
– Reach out for help: If you or someone you know is being negatively affected by social media, reach out to a trusted friend or adult for help. Check the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidance on social media.
– Create boundaries: Limit the use of phones, tablets, and computers for at least one hour before bedtime and through the night to make sure you get enough sleep. Keep mealtimes and in-person gatherings device-free to help build social bonds and engage in two-way conversations with others. Connect with people in person and make unplugged interactions a daily priority.
– Be cautious about what you share: Personal information about you has value. Be selective with what you post and share online and with whom, as it is often public and can be stored permanently. If you aren’t sure if you should post something, it’s usually best if you don’t.
– Don’t keep harassment or abuse a secret: Reach out to at least one person you trust, such as a close friend, family member, counselor, or teacher, who can give you the help and support you deserve. Visit stopbullying.gov for tips on how to report cyberbullying. If you have experienced online harassment and abuse by a dating partner, contact an expert at Love is Respect for support. If your private images have been taken and shared online without your permission, visit Take It Down to help get them removed.
TIPS FOR PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS
– Create a family media plan: Agreed-upon expectations can help establish healthy technology boundaries at home – including social media use. A family media plan can promote open family discussion and rules about media use and include topics such as balancing screen/online time, content boundaries, and not disclosing personal information
– Create tech-free zones: Restrict the use of electronics at least one hour before bedtime and through the night. Keep meal times and other in-person gatherings tech-free. Help children develop social skills and nurture their in-person relationships by encouraging unstructured and offline connections with others.
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