Earlier last month, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, delivered a report citing a “profound risk of harm” to teenagers who engage with social media.
The report advocated keeping mealtimes free of devices and for tech companies to enforce minimum age limits and high safety standards for children.
Marketing Daily recently spoke with Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst of Insider Intelligence, about the report and what it means for families and businesses. Below are excerpts of that conversation, edited for clarity and length.
Marketing Daily: What did you think of the report and what do you think about the primary dangers it outlined?
Debra Aho Williamson: The biggest danger that they're looking for are things that impact the mental health of teens. Within that, there's everything from bullying to interacting with people who aren't who they think they are.
Marketing Daily: What do you think of the advice offered by the report?
Williamson: I think the advice is very sound. It's the kind of advice you would see when someone is potentially feeling like their mental health is being challenged. So, it's about reaching out to people who need help or being cautious about what you share, and not keeping things a secret, if you're being bullied or if you're being harassed.
A lot of the focus is on the technology companies, or the social platforms themselves, and what their role is. Many of them have instituted various types of protective devices to keep people from staying online too long or to detect bullying or to report harassment. So they can very easily say, "Oh, well, we know we already do this."
And the challenge is that the Surgeon General is saying, "Well, you're not doing enough, or you’re offering all these tools, but teens aren't being reminded on a regular basis that they could use those tools." So that's my interpretation of what the Surgeon General's tried to get at.
Marketing Daily: What do you think was the best advice they offered in terms of parents worried about their kids being on social media?
Williamson: I can say this because I am a parent. My children are just outside of the teen age group, but they were teens not too long ago. And I would say just to be open and talk to them about what their experiences are with using social media.
The report has a a whole section on what they call modeling responsible social media behavior -- limiting your own use, being mindful of your habits and how you share content about your children or about yourself.
It's also about making sure you know what your teens are doing. It doesn't have to be done in sort of a snooping, overbearing parental kind of way -- but just having an open dialogue with your teenager is probably the biggest benefit that a parent can have. Because at the end of the day, kids are still going to use social media. So for parents, it's walking that fine line of being a partner and helping them to understand the best ways to use social media so they know their mental health isn't harmed.