Recently, you may have heard that the Surgeon General of the United States urged Congress to place a black box warning label on social media. We’ve all seen them before on various prescription bottles as well as on all tobacco products.

In this case, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told Congress that the labels are needed because compelling evidence shows that children who watch more than 5 hours of social media a day are twice as likely to experience anxiety and depression compared to those who did not.

In addition, studies reveal that kids who are heavily involved in social media like Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok develop poor body image and self-esteem. The constant exposure to perfect bodies and amazing accomplishments posted by their peers leads kids to experience a false sense of inferiority and inadequacy.    Surgeon General Issues New Advisory About Effects Social Media Use Has on Youth Mental Health |

Many folks have been concerned about the long-term effects of smartphones and social media on child development for years.,  However, the conclusions of repeated studies regarding the impact of social media on a child’s mental health are clear. SMART PHONES AND TEENS | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (

Admittedly, smartphones and social media have become integral parts of modern life. Thinking that children can be protected from any exposure is unrealistic.  That said, there are basic steps that parents can take to reduce exposure and thus minimize this risk for their children. Here are some tips to consider for your family:



The first line of defense against social media is non-judgmental communication with your children. Be empathic. Listen to their concerns and try to understand them. Talking without condemning can build trust and help your messages increase their awareness about the risks of social media.

2) No Smart Phones Until High School

Accomplishing this tip will not be easy but it’s doable. The best way to protect your child’s emotional development and overall mental health is to restrict access to social media. That said, smartphones are the biggest source of exposure to social media.  Studies show that older teens are less impacted by social platforms than younger kids,

As a result, flip phones are a better option than smartphones for kids. They can allow emergency communication without the perils of the internet.

3) Limit the Places Smartphones Can Be Used.

Parents must understand that they control the access to and use of smartphones in the home and elsewhere. Although there are exceptions, as a rule smartphones should not be allowed in school and other places like the dinner table or at bedtime.

4) Place Time Limits on Social Media use.

Research shows that 5 hours a day of social media exposure is too much. Each family needs to decide what is right for its individual situation.


Technological innovation always upsets social order and can be anxiety-producing. The introduction of smartphones and social media is no exception. Realistically, since computer phones and the internet are barely a generation old, the full impact of their presence is not fully understood.

As we continue to learn, keeping an open mind and reality-testing our fears are important parental values.

One last thought. While placing limits on social media is crucial for the healthy emotional development of children, it is also important for adults, especially in marriage.  More on this topic another time.

REv, Michael Health, LMHC, Fellow AAPC   June 19 2024