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Surgeon general Vivek Murthy warns 13 is too young for children to sign up for social media

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Pause those downloads.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned that children join social media too early and believe they should only be allowed to access the platforms once they’re between 16 and 18.

Platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Twitter currently allow users to join as long as they are at least 13 years old.

Murthy believes this can cause adolescents a “distorted’ sense of self during their curricle developmental years.

“I, personally, based on the data I’ve seen, believe that 13 is too early,” Murthy said on CNN. “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.”

Murthy says parents should do their best to keep their children off these platforms until they reach their mid to late teenage years.

Murthy suggested that teenagers on social media will become “hypersensitive” to criticism as adults.

Social media use for teenagers has sparked much concern amongst medical professionals following research that suggests links between social media and depression among the youth.

Murthy understands it will be challenging to keep children off these platforms, given their growing popularity amongst peers, but believes parents should stand their ground to help protect their children.

Adolescents on social media could become “hypersensitive” to criticism as adults.

“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.

Murthy, who has served as surgeon general under both the Obama and now the Biden administrations, warns that children may be more susceptible to developing insecurities and will be accessible to bullies if they are on the platforms at too early of an age.

The 19th and 21st US surgeon general told a heartbreaking story of a mother who visited him in his office and told him about the tragic suicide of her 11-year-old daughters after she was “mercilessly” cyberbullied on social media.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and President Obama.
This is Murthy’s second term as the United States Surgeon General. He previously served under President Obama from 2014-2017.
Getty Images

“Her daughter had started using social media, had seven accounts on three different platforms, was mercilessly bullied, unfortunately, by people on these platforms, struggled to get off of these but could not.”

JAMA Pediatrics published a study earlier this month arguing that social media is reprogramming the brains of adolescents.

178 12-year-olds from three public middle schools in North Carolina were studied to see how often they check social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Upset kid on social media.
JAMA Pediatrics study showed how social media might be rewiring the brains of adolescents.

They then participated in a social incentive delay task to see how their brains responded when expecting social rewards.

“Our findings suggest that checking behaviors on social media in early adolescence may tune the brain’s sensitivity to potential social rewards and punishments,” said Dr. Eva Telzer, co-author of the study and a professor in developmental psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Individuals with habitual checking behaviors showed initial hypoactivation but increasing sensitivity to potential social cues over time, those with nonhabitual checking behaviors showed initial hyperactivation and decreasing sensitivity over time.”


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