DC psychiatrist weighs in on proposed social media warning labels for kids

This week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called on Congress to add warning labels to social media platforms, similar to the warnings on tobacco products. The goal of the label is to let parents know how harmful social media can be for children.

“I really applaud Dr. Murthy for championing this cause and kind of cutting through the noise and saying, ‘We need to do something and we need to protect kids,'” said Dr. Emily Aron, a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Aron, who is an associate professor and the faculty director for the Certificate in Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health at Georgetown University School of Medicine, said those who work with children suffering from mental health issues need to have discussions with parents and others about the potential harms of social media use.

“(The label) creates like a pause,” Aron said. “So that it’s not just assumed that it’s OK, because it’s there and it’s available, that we should really be thinking twice before we allow children and adolescents to have exposure to social media.”

She said while some of the science on the topic isn’t easy for parents and others to interpret, what is known is social media can have an impact on young people, especially youths with a predisposition to depression and anxiety.

“I do see that once they get a smartphone and have access to attention-grabbing platforms, that things tend to get harder,” Aron said.

She said with some of her patients, the social comparison from social media use can lead to poor self-esteem, and that can lead to some more self-consciousness or awareness of body image, which ultimately can sometimes lead to eating disorders.

Regarding what can and cannot be said about social media’s impact, Aron said that while the scientific community is still debating the topic, she would like to see everyone come together more on the issue.

“(We need to have) more of a consensus model where we determine what the parameters that should be around online safety, and try to enact that in communities and schools. And just have some common ground,” Aron said.

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Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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