Convened by the nonprofit National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the committee reviewed numerous studies on the topic of youth health and social media use and found that most research only shows an association between a range of online behaviors and different physical and social behaviors. Mental Health results.
In the absence of research demonstrating a convincing cause-and-effect relationship, the committee recommended further research as well as the creation of strict industry standards for the design, transparency and use of data from social media platforms.
Earlier this year, Congress Hears Testimony From Parents who supported bipartisan legislation banning social media for youth under 13, in addition to requiring older minors to receive permission from their parents before opening a social media account. There have been separate attempts in the United States to ban TikTokusually for cybersecurity reasons.
The committee, made up of 11 experts from computer science, psychology, public health, social connections and other related topics, called for a more measured approach.
“While some users, using social media in particular ways, may find their mental health affected, for many others such damage will not be caused, and for still others the experience will be useful,” they said. writes the committee members in a comprehensive report. “This suggests to the committee that a sensible approach to protecting the mental health of young people is warranted (rather than some of the more general bans proposed by other entities in recent years.”
Even without compelling evidence that social media use leads to significant changes in young people’s mental health, the report details how young users could be negatively affected by time spent on the platforms.
This includes the ability of platforms to encourage “unhealthy social comparisons”, which can be a risk factor for eating disorders, and to displace time that young people might otherwise spend on sleeping, studying, exercising and leisure.
The report’s authors also noted that social media platforms have a “distraction power” that can prevent adolescents from developing attention-related skills that boost their concentration, academic achievement and emotion regulation.
They were also concerned about the finding that social media use among LGBTQ+ Adolescents are associated with an increased risk of bullying and that online gamers can sometimes develop “dysfunctional behavior” related to gaming, particularly when this activity outweighs all their other interests and obligations.
Amid these known potential pitfalls, the authors wrote that social media platforms can have positive benefits for young people, such as meeting their need for independence, helping them make meaningful connections with others, and providing them with ways to explore their identity.
Indeed, a Pew Research Center survey of adolescents this fall, I discovered that they continue to use social media at the same rate as in years past, indicating that the benefits may outweigh fears about possible harm from continued or near-constant use.
To “maximize” these benefits, the committee recommended creating a set of industry standards for social media operations and platform design that prioritize transparency and allow for monitoring by the public and the Federal Trade Commission.
Other recommendations included better protection against harassment, cyberbullying and sexual exploitation; implement a K-12 media literacy program, with related teacher training; and increased access to vital data currently held by social media companies so that researchers can conduct more rigorous studies on how social media use can affect young people.
National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau, who was not on the committee, said in a news release that parents, doctors, teachers and teens have long wanted this clarity.
“Now is the time for research to help answer this pressing question and inform ongoing public policy debates on social media,” Dzau said.