Instagram and TikTok could soon come with a label: they're potentially harmful

Instagram and TikTok could soon come with a label: they're potentially harmful
If you think social media like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok is bad (like, really bad) because it could be addictive and harmful, so does the US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. He advocates for adding warning labels to social media apps, highlighting their potential harm to young people, especially adolescents.

Murthy argues that while a warning label alone won't make social media safe for the youth, it can raise awareness and influence behavior, drawing parallels to the impact of tobacco warnings. Implementing such a label would require legislation from the US Congress.

Murthy's call for action aligns with longstanding concerns from youth advocates and lawmakers, who have criticized social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat for their detrimental effects on children.

These concerns include shortened attention spans, negative body image issues, and increased vulnerability to online bullying and predators.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, June 2024

In January, the CEOs of TikTok, Snap, Meta Platforms (which owns Facebook and Instagram), along with representatives from social media platform X and messaging app Discord, faced intense questioning from US senators during a hearing on online child safety.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham accused them of having "blood on your hands" for failing to protect young users from sexual predators. Senator Graham's accusations of "blood on your hands" are hilarious in the context of his other stances, but that's off-topic.

So, what now? Personally, I think things will go on without change, even if there's a label on the Facebook app.

First, I've never ever seen a smoker that goes "Wow, these graphic pictures of smoking-related problems on the pack of my cigarettes really changed my mind, I'm done with smoking!"

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Second, sorry to burst your bubble, but the damage has already been done. Instead of putting a red dot (or whatever) on (in) a social media app, the government could seek ways to punish parents who give two-year olds smartphones and tablets to play with all day, every day.

Right now, some US states are taking steps to protect children from the adverse effects of social media. For instance, New York state lawmakers recently passed legislation prohibiting social media platforms from exposing users under 18 to "addictive" algorithmic content without parental consent. Additionally, in March, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning children under 14 from using social media platforms and requiring parental consent for 14- and 15-year-olds.

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