U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently called for a warning label on social media platforms. Would it help? NewsdayTV's Shari Einhorn reports. Credit: Randee Daddona

The nation's top doctor recently called for a label on social media platforms to warn that such sites are “associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents” — a change that would require action from Congress.

On Long Island, the proposal appears to be getting mostly a thumbs-up, although some stakeholders who spoke to Newsday said such a warning wouldn't be an all-out solution.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in a New York Times guest essay on June 17, now posted on his office's website, that social media is contributing to a mental health crisis among young people and that a cigarette-style label is needed on the tech platforms.

The label “would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe,” Murthy wrote. He added that evidence from tobacco studies shows “warning labels can increase awareness and change behavior.”

On June 20, New York undertook its own related initiative, becoming the first state in the nation to ban algorithm-based social media feeds for those under 18 unless there is parental consent. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the SAFE for Kids Act, which will limit the algorithms some experts say are harmful and addictive. The new law also will require parental consent for social media apps to send notifications to minors overnight. 

Big Tech groups have been opposed to such measures. They have cited concerns about how age verification would work, which platforms would be included and whether banning algorithms would have the opposite intended effect because they also filter harmful content.

Some tech advocacy groups have called Murthy's federal proposal unconstitutional.

Here are viewpoints of several Long Island residents about the call for a warning label on social media, edited for clarity and length.

Vera Sweeney, 46, Garden City, digital content creator
Labels are better than no labels. However, I don’t believe they are the solution everyone hopes they will turn out to be. We need to get kids offline and back outside.

I think it is important for online social platforms to add extra layers of security and warnings to their products. Companies should do all they can to help better protect children while on the internet.
Pop-up notifications reminding children that unfamiliar contacts are strangers, acknowledging that posted images may be filtered and prompting intervention when a child spends too much time scrolling can all contribute slightly to shaping social behaviors.
Deena Abbe, 47, family and child psychologist in Commack

I do think social media should come with a warning, but no, I don't think it's going to help or change anything. There may be a small percentage of people who stop and think about it, but unless legislation is changed and the algorithm has changed, it's not going to stop anyone from doing anything.

Parents don't have that much control. The kids are already hooked into it, and the social media companies have created an algorithm that's really very addicting.

I think we need to put way more money into mental health and into children's education and give people more options.

Kusum Sinha, superintendent, Garden City public schools 

Social media platforms are very addictive. They can lead to social anxiety and exposure to content that is not age appropriate, along with cyberbullying and depression. Developmentally, our kids are not ready to handle the content they are exposed to on social media.

The warning label would alert parents to the damage social media can cause, and force adults to think about the risks associated with social media, and could lead to more parental oversight.

Tech companies should consult with mental health professionals, schools and parents to keep our children's well-being at the forefront. Parents should monitor their children and create rules and guidelines.

Maria Sanders, 50, Sachem PTA Council president

Social media gives us an incredible amount of power and access, but we need to be so mindful of the responsibility that comes with it, especially as it pertains to protecting our kids.

Social media is linked to mental health concerns, misinformation, privacy concerns and data collection issues.

A label would serve as an official warning that this is serious. It would start a much needed conversation in educating everyone. It would push the tech companies to be more transparent and admit there is a risk associated with use. I also think it would empower parents to set boundaries and enforce rules, similar to the alcohol legislation and the cigarette legislation.

Rohan Murphy, 40, East Islip, motivational speaker and digital content creator

As long as it doesn't ban anything and it's just a warning, why not? Social media is like everything else — one man's tool is another man's weapon. It all depends what you do with it.

It would just bring more awareness that everything on social media isn't good to view, and I think parents need to step up and be more proactive with what their kids are looking at on social media.

It's on the parents, just like how it's on the parents to make sure that whatever the kids watch on TV is age appropriate. It's not up to the cable companies or television makers or manufacturers or companies.

Sabrina Guo, 18, Yale University student, intern for Sen. Chuck Schumer

Recent studies have shown the harms of social media have increasingly outweighed the benefits. I've advocated for mental health awareness, published public health research about adolescents and dealt with mental health challenges myself. A warning label will not only raise awareness, but also change people’s behavior, especially over time. 

Yes, the onus is on the parents, and some states already require the kids to get parental consent to access social media. I strongly support the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which has bipartisan support in the Senate and the House, and would require the tech companies to initiate measures to reduce the danger of their online platforms to minors. 

Leah Awalom, 17, vice president of Class of 2025 at Freeport High School

I am definitely for it, especially for the younger ages, because there's definitely not enough restrictions. I see a lot of young people, even before they hit 13, on social media, when they shouldn't be seeing any of that content.

I think it would help people realize exactly how much damage it does and what risks they're taking when applying for a social media platform. I also think it would make the parents pay more attention to what their children are doing.

I don't think the tech companies really should be held responsible, because it's not their children.

The nation's top doctor recently called for a label on social media platforms to warn that such sites are “associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents” — a change that would require action from Congress.

On Long Island, the proposal appears to be getting mostly a thumbs-up, although some stakeholders who spoke to Newsday said such a warning wouldn't be an all-out solution.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in a New York Times guest essay on June 17, now posted on his office's website, that social media is contributing to a mental health crisis among young people and that a cigarette-style label is needed on the tech platforms.

The label “would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe,” Murthy wrote. He added that evidence from tobacco studies shows “warning labels can increase awareness and change behavior.”

On June 20, New York undertook its own related initiative, becoming the first state in the nation to ban algorithm-based social media feeds for those under 18 unless there is parental consent. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the SAFE for Kids Act, which will limit the algorithms some experts say are harmful and addictive. The new law also will require parental consent for social media apps to send notifications to minors overnight. 

Big Tech groups have been opposed to such measures. They have cited concerns about how age verification would work, which platforms would be included and whether banning algorithms would have the opposite intended effect because they also filter harmful content.

Some tech advocacy groups have called Murthy's federal proposal unconstitutional.

Here are viewpoints of several Long Island residents about the call for a warning label on social media, edited for clarity and length.

Vera Sweeney, 46, Garden City, digital content creator
Labels are better than no labels. However, I don’t believe they are the solution everyone hopes they will turn out to be. We need to get kids offline and back outside.

I think it is important for online social platforms to add extra layers of security and warnings to their products. Companies should do all they can to help better protect children while on the internet.
Pop-up notifications reminding children that unfamiliar contacts are strangers, acknowledging that posted images may be filtered and prompting intervention when a child spends too much time scrolling can all contribute slightly to shaping social behaviors.
Deena Abbe, 47, family and child psychologist in Commack

I do think social media should come with a warning, but no, I don't think it's going to help or change anything. There may be a small percentage of people who stop and think about it, but unless legislation is changed and the algorithm has changed, it's not going to stop anyone from doing anything.

Parents don't have that much control. The kids are already hooked into it, and the social media companies have created an algorithm that's really very addicting.

I think we need to put way more money into mental health and into children's education and give people more options.

Kusum Sinha, superintendent, Garden City public schools 

Social media platforms are very addictive. They can lead to social anxiety and exposure to content that is not age appropriate, along with cyberbullying and depression. Developmentally, our kids are not ready to handle the content they are exposed to on social media.

The warning label would alert parents to the damage social media can cause, and force adults to think about the risks associated with social media, and could lead to more parental oversight.

Tech companies should consult with mental health professionals, schools and parents to keep our children's well-being at the forefront. Parents should monitor their children and create rules and guidelines.

Maria Sanders, 50, Sachem PTA Council president

Social media gives us an incredible amount of power and access, but we need to be so mindful of the responsibility that comes with it, especially as it pertains to protecting our kids.

Social media is linked to mental health concerns, misinformation, privacy concerns and data collection issues.

A label would serve as an official warning that this is serious. It would start a much needed conversation in educating everyone. It would push the tech companies to be more transparent and admit there is a risk associated with use. I also think it would empower parents to set boundaries and enforce rules, similar to the alcohol legislation and the cigarette legislation.

Rohan Murphy, 40, East Islip, motivational speaker and digital content creator

As long as it doesn't ban anything and it's just a warning, why not? Social media is like everything else — one man's tool is another man's weapon. It all depends what you do with it.

It would just bring more awareness that everything on social media isn't good to view, and I think parents need to step up and be more proactive with what their kids are looking at on social media.

It's on the parents, just like how it's on the parents to make sure that whatever the kids watch on TV is age appropriate. It's not up to the cable companies or television makers or manufacturers or companies.

Sabrina Guo, 18, Yale University student, intern for Sen. Chuck Schumer

Recent studies have shown the harms of social media have increasingly outweighed the benefits. I've advocated for mental health awareness, published public health research about adolescents and dealt with mental health challenges myself. A warning label will not only raise awareness, but also change people’s behavior, especially over time. 

Yes, the onus is on the parents, and some states already require the kids to get parental consent to access social media. I strongly support the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which has bipartisan support in the Senate and the House, and would require the tech companies to initiate measures to reduce the danger of their online platforms to minors. 

Leah Awalom, 17, vice president of Class of 2025 at Freeport High School

I am definitely for it, especially for the younger ages, because there's definitely not enough restrictions. I see a lot of young people, even before they hit 13, on social media, when they shouldn't be seeing any of that content.

I think it would help people realize exactly how much damage it does and what risks they're taking when applying for a social media platform. I also think it would make the parents pay more attention to what their children are doing.

I don't think the tech companies really should be held responsible, because it's not their children.

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