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Like 'pitting a child against' big tech: Surgeon General says 13 is 'too early' for kids to be on social media

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says that social media is doing a "disservice" to children by allowing them to use the platforms at such a young age, telling CNN that he believes 13 years old is too young to be using the apps.

"These rules around age are inconsistently implemented," said Murthy, who says 13-year-olds are still developing their identity.

Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram allow 13-year-olds to use their products, but the surgeon general says that parents should band together to keep children off the addictive sites at such a developmental stage.

“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.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Ct.) shared Murthy's sentiments, longing for person-to-person interactions as opposed to communication through screens:

“We have lost something as a society, as so much of our life has turned into screen-to-screen communication, it just doesn’t give you the same sense of value and the same sense of satisfaction as talking to somebody or seeing someone."

Despite telling CNN that lawmakers could make a difference, Sen. Murphy does not appear to have introduced any legislation regarding this matter.

However, in 2018, Murphy called for platforms like YouTube and Facebook to be more restrictive and asked them to "do more" in terms of content moderation, claiming that the "survival" of democracy depended on it.

Murphy, speaking to CNN, likened regulating social media to passing laws that make cars safer, saying "when we had dangerous vehicles on the road, we passed laws to make those vehicles less dangerous.”

The surgeon general, referring to social media algorithms, said it is not a fair fight between big tech and children.

“If we tell a child, use the force of your willpower to control how much time you’re spending, you’re pitting a child against the world’s greatest product designers,” Murthy said.

“I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early. … 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,” he remarked.

Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March 2021 as the 21st surgeon general of the United States.

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