This week, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called for health warnings on social media for younger users. This recent call follows an earlier Advisory on Social Media and Youth Mental Health, also published by the Surgeon General.

Health warnings on social media would be analogous to the ones seen on cigarette packages, serving as reminders to parents and youth of the mental health risks of social media. The Surgeon General also called for schools to become phone-free environments. Although in his op-ed, Murthy acknowledged that research on these topics is not yet conclusive, he also noted that we “don’t have the luxury to wait for perfect information.”

Concerns over smartphone use and social media’s impact on child and adolescent mental health are far from new. But they have been reignited because new warnings are being suggested and put into place to limit their use. Smartphone bans or restrictions have been enacted in countries around the world although how these restrictions work in practice varies. Several Canadian provinces are also implementing such restrictions.

Although these efforts are well intentioned, and seek to support youth, research supporting these practices is still unsettled. As researchers in child development and psychology, we feel it is essential to review related research and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of smartphone bans and social media health warnings.

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Iron Will

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