US National Academies’ report urges social media industry standards to safeguard adolescent health

The report underscores potential harms and benefits of social media use, urging a comprehensive approach and increased collaboration among stakeholders, including social media companies.

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A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends industrywide standards and enhanced protections against harassment to balance the impact of social media on adolescent health.

The report emphasises the influence of smartphone technology on children’s internet relationships and the potential of social media to affect adolescents uniquely due to brain development. While acknowledging insufficient evidence to claim causation, the report urges a nuanced approach, suggesting the development of international standards for social media platform design, transparency, and data use. It also calls for robust systems to combat online abuse, revise regulations, and develop support programs.

The report highlights potential harms, such as unhealthy comparisons and attention displacement, and benefits, including connecting with support networks. To address these issues, the report advocates for educating teachers and medical professionals, emphasizing media literacy, and conducting further research on social media’s impact on adolescent health. Sponsored by various foundations, the study encourages social media companies to facilitate research by removing data access restrictions.

Why does it matter?

The report’s findings and recommendations signal a recognition of the need for a coordinated effort to address the impact of social media on young people. This has been a cause for concern worldwide, with the European Parliament approving a resolution targeting the addictive nature of digital platforms. In the US, a federal judge ruled against major companies, including Alphabet and Meta, in lawsuits filed on behalf of individual children, alleging that these companies unlawfully attracted and addicted millions of children, causing mental health harm. While certain states are contemplating legislation, the absence of definite federal plans creates a potential for the industry-wide standards recommended in the report to be well-received.