By Ben Henry

From Congress, to summits for the youth right here in Minnesota, work towards addressing the harms of social media for kids and teens is happening at crucial time.  

Tuesday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory highlighting the harms of social media for kids and teens. It also included a call to action for those who can help — including families, community stakeholders and policymakers.

“We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis — one that we must urgently address,” Dr. Murthy wrote.

A study cited in the surgeon general’s advisory found adolescents who spent more than three hours a day on social media faced “double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes including symptoms of depression and anxiety.”

Those who work closely with children and teens say it’s something that they face daily. 

“Absolutely, I see these concerns every day,” Dr. Sarah Jerstad, Children’s Minnesota’s medical director of outpatient mental health services, said.

Dr. Jerstad feels the call to action by the nation’s top doctor was “excellent.”

“It’s a warning to kids, and to families, and to media companies to pay attention to the negative effects of screen time and particularly of social media and use for kids,” Dr. Jerstad said.

Just last week, Minnesota non-profit LiveMore ScreenLess held its first-ever summit — connecting dozens of teens and young adults together to work towards its goal of teaching “digital well-being.”

“We have known for a while now that the overuse and misuse of technology is impacting the well-being of our students both learning and mental health,” Maree Hampton, co-founder and executive director for LiveMore ScreenLess, said.

The surgeon general’s advisory makes multiple recommendations, including parents setting boundaries on social media use at home, that tech companies share data on potential health impacts of their platforms and that policymakers should pursue policies that minimize the risk of harm, as in age limits.

Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar has been actively holding those social media companies for years and says there’s much more work ahead.

“We are one by one, finally starting to take on these companies to put rules of the road in place,” Senator Klobuchar told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

“There are major bills that I am sponsoring, that basically say parents have the right to make the decisions of what their kids see, they have the right to limit screen time, and to make it really easy to do it,” Klobuchar said. “And, [so that] they have the right to opt out of these addictive algorithms.”