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Surgeon General warns about social media and youth mental health

Surgeon General warns about social media and youth mental health
Surgeon General warns about social media and youth mental health 02:14

BOSTON - A dire social media warning from the nation's top doctor calls for action from tech companies and lawmakers. But it is parents who feel the pressure, already in the trenches trying to find apps to protect their kids as they scroll.

"There are several out there that say they can block certain things or email you if they see certain things in your children's social media or emails. None of them are very good," said local mother Jessi Champion.

U.S. Surgeon General's 25-page advisory highlights the serious mental health risks of social media for kids; research links overuse to depression and anxiety, poor sleep, and online harassment.

The Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children's Hospital works with some of those young patients, whose sleep, academics, and relationships have been impacted by the internet. Dr. Michael Rich, who's writing a book on the issue, empowers parents trying to manage social media with the five Ms for healthy habits.

  • Model the kind of screen behavior you want to see
  • Mentor how and when to safely use screens; like you'd teach a teen to drive a car
  • Monitor - have your teens' usernames and passwords
  • Make memories - outside, together, without devices 
  • And finally, Mastery

"What we want to do is take our research about positive and negative ways we are changed by screens we use and feed it into their R&D process at earliest stages so they can build technology that is more human and humane," Dr. Rich explained.

Dr. Rich believes we must see media as 'neutral.' It isn't evil, if used mindfully for good.

"We see the incredible engagement young people have with the online world as a real opportunity to educate and empower them, but they have to learn to use it in ways that are productive and efficacious at caring for themselves and each other," he added. 

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