US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says he believes 13 is too young for children to be on social media platforms, because although sites allow children of that age to join, kids are still “developing their identity.”
Meta, Twitter, and a host of other social media giants currently allow 13-year-olds to join their platforms.
“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,” Murthy said on “CNN Newsroom.”
The number of teenagers on social media has sparked alarm among medical professionals, who point to a growing body of research about the harm such platforms can cause adolescents.
Murthy acknowledged the difficulties of keeping children off these platforms given their popularity, but suggested parents can find success by presenting a united front.
“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.
According to a study published this month in JAMA Pediatrics, students who checked social media more regularly displayed greater neural sensitivity in certain parts of their brains, making their brains more sensitive to social consequences over time.
Psychiatrists like Dr. Adriana Stacey have pointed to this phenomenon for years. Stacey, who works primarily with teenagers and college students, previously told CNN using social media releases a “dopamine dump” in the brain.
“When we do things that are addictive like using cocaine or using smartphones, our brains release a lot of dopamine at once. It tells our brains to keep using that,” she said. “For teenagers in particular, this part of their brain is actually hyperactive compared to adults. They can’t get motivated to do anything else.”
Recent studies demonstrate other ways excessive screen time can impact brain development. In young children, for example, excessive screen time was significantly associated with poorer emerging literacy skills and ability to use expressive language.