LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and co-authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn to protect youth from the negative impacts of social media.
“It’s no secret that use of social media by youth has resulted in social comparison, social pressures, cyberbullying, low self-esteem, and sleep deprivation—all of which fuel increases in mental, emotional, behavioral, and developmental disorders,” said Supervisor Solis. “As home to the largest county mental health department in the nation, it is critical that we take urgent action to create safe and healthy digital environments that minimize harm and safeguard the mental health of our children and adolescents.”
On March 23, 2023, the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, issued a 25-page Advisory warning of the prolific negative effects of social media on youth mental health while acknowledging that the full scope and scale is still not fully appreciated due to a lack of access to data and lack of transparency on the part of social media technology companies.
Research has indicated that, since brain development during adolescence renders youth particularly vulnerable, youth may face heightened emotional sensitivity to communications and interactions that they are subjected to on social media platforms, compared to their adult counterparts. The social media industry is largely unregulated and profits rely on mass and continued engagement by consumers, including children. As a result, social media platforms utilize tools designed to maximize user engagement, such as sophisticated algorithms that provide content based on user data, push notifications, “like” counts, and autoplay functions. Studies have shown that these tools used to maximize engagement for profit purposes can lead to youth excessive use of social media, resulting in habit formation and changes in brain structure similar to changes seen in the brains of individuals with substance use or gambling addictions.
“Social media is having a profound impact on the mental health of our kids. While our society grapples with the best way to address these challenges and hold social media companies accountable, we are going to give parents and kids the best information possible and tools they can use to prevent some of the worst impacts, said Chair Hahn.”
Solis and Hahn’s motion, which passed today, directs the Department of Mental Health, in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, to develop and distribute media literacy curricula and materials centered around the harms associated with the use of social media by youth, practical ways to mitigate identified harms, and readily available resources that affected youth can access. In addition, the motion asks for the Department of Mental Health to utilize its Youth Ambassador Program to amplify and distribute these resources.