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How to Cut Back on Kids’ Social Media After Surgeon General’s Announcement

The surgeon general wants more restrictions on social media to protect children’s health. Here’s how to help your kids cut down on screen time this summer.

The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, announced on Monday that he would push for a warning label on social media sites that says the platforms can harm the mental health of young people.

When she heard the news, Jean Twenge, a research psychologist who has spent years warning about the risks of social media, had one thought: “Finally.”

Public health experts, educators and policymakers across the country have become increasingly concerned about the potential effects of social media on the mental health of teenagers, who spend an average of 4.8 hours a day on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.

The end of the school year can leave teens with extra free time to spend mindlessly scrolling on their phones. But the summer can also serve as a useful opportunity to reset family social media rules and take advantage of in-person hangouts and hands-on activities, said Dr. Marc Potenza, a professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.

Here’s how to do a social media reset with tweens and teens this summer.

This is Dr. Twenge’s top piece of advice to parents, she said. Have adolescents put devices elsewhere overnight, such as a communal charging station. Studies have found that screens can significantly disrupt sleep, and teens and tweens need eight to 10 hours every night.

“Parents are allowed a little bit of what I like to call ‘digital hypocrisy,’” Dr. Twenge said. “But this is one everyone should follow.”

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