Mighty Blog

Health advisory on social media use for kids and teens  

While social media can be beneficial in many ways, there is no denying that it has also negatively impacted the mental health of kids and teens everywhere. In May 2023, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, released an advisory highlighting the harms of social media on youth mental health. 

Risks of social media

When talking about if social media is safe for kids, Dr. Murthy said, “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.” 

Below are five risks that were highlighted in Dr. Murthy’s advisory that parents should be aware of when allowing or considering letting their child use social media. 

Inappropriate content exposure

Social media has made it easy for kids and teens to be exposed to harmful, inappropriate and hate-based content, such as self-harm acts, social media challenges and racist content. Two of the main ways that kids can come across inappropriate content are by the type of videos or posts that show up on their feed and when things are shared through messages by peers or strangers online. 

Body image concerns and low self-esteem 

With social media, it is easy to compare yourself to others in a time where it has gotten hard to tell if something has been edited or filtered, and when you are seeing peers post the best version of themselves or a highlight reel of their life. If you feel your life doesn’t match that, it can lead to mental health issues like low self-esteem, depression, body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and more. 

Social media can become addictive 

The goal of tech companies is to increase engagement and make users stay on their app for as long as possible. Some of the ways tech companies do this are by taking user data to make their algorithm more engaging and by having addictive features such as the like button, which triggers the same dopamine pathways as chemical addictions. You can read more about how likes are addictive here 

Predatory behavior and interactions 

Another risk on social media is that people with bad intentions can target young children to exploit them. This is often done through the messaging feature on apps.  

Anyone on social media can try and send messages to other accounts. It’s important to go over the privacy setting of your child’s accounts with them and make sure people who they don’t know aren’t following them. And depending on the app, you might be able to restrict who can send messages to your child’s account.  

Sleep problems 

Adolescents and teens need both good quality and lots of sleep for healthy development. However, excessive use of social media can disrupt sleep patterns and cause poor sleep. If you have a child that is having a hard time falling asleep at night or not getting quality sleep, you can read more about sleeping tips for kids of all ages here 

Benefits of social media  

Social media is a world of endless possibilities, and it can be a great place for community, support and learning.  


Social media can be a great tool for finding and building a community of people that have similar values or interests to you. This can also help kids form friendships that they may not have the opportunity to in real life. 

Social support 

Social support is something that can also be gained from social media. For youth in marginalized groups, this can have a positive impact on their mental health and help them feel less alone in their experiences or struggles.


With so much new information being shared online daily, social media can be a good starting point to learning about new things and current events. 

Signs of excessive social media use

Social media will impact every child differently. Below are some common signs to look out for if you think your child is struggling from too much social media use.  

  • A decline in their mental health is a common sign to look out for. This can show up in forms of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and more.  
  • Your child is struggling with disconnecting from their phone or social media. This can show up in the form of anger when they’re asked to disconnect from their phone.  
  • Neglecting chores and responsibilities, such as schoolwork, to be on social media. 
  • Some physical signs are tiredness from lack of sleep, headaches and other body pain.  

Social media recommendations for families  

If your child is on social media or you’re considering allowing them to use social media, the American Psychological Association (APA) released a list of 10 social media recommendations that suggest parents closely monitor their kids’ usage, talk to them about the digital world and set expectations before allowing them to be on social media.  

Be proactive and keep a watchful eye 

Ask your child about social media. It can be as simple as asking what is trending or what their favorite type of content to watch is. Occasionally, you can also watch your child’s TikTok “for you” page or recommended YouTube videos to see the type of content that is popping up for them. 

Talk about social media and keep an open dialogue 

Before allowing your child to be on social media, talk to them about the dangers of social media in an age-appropriate way and remind them to let you know if they see anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. Keeping an open dialogue about this can also help you stay on top of the type of content your child is seeing and if social media has been a positive experience for them.  

Set expectations

Social media expectations can look different for every family, but below are some popular rules that you can start off with.  

  • Set a limit on how often and long your child is able to be on their phone or social media. 
  • Turn on parental control for younger kids. You can consider using a parental control app to help monitor your child’s social media accounts, set screen time limits, block inappropriate content and more. View a list of 10 parental control apps and their pros and cons here 
  • Turn off electronics 30-60 minutes before bedtime to not disrupt sleep. 

Get more tips on how to be proactive, keeping an open dialogue and setting expectations around social media here.  

Mental health resources for families  

At Children’s Minnesota, we understand how hard it can be to access mental health resources. If your child is struggling with their mental health or social media use, the following resources may be a good starting point for help.  

Mai Songsawatwong