Child Advocates Back Surgeon General's Call for Tobacco-Like Warnings on Social Media

submitted by jeffw…

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A Child is advocating for a Back Surgeon who has made a General Call? Am I reading that right?


Took me several seconds to parse that sentence as well.


John Perry Barlow was right

Is there any hope at all left that governments might one day leave us on the Internet in peace?


I once wished for this, especially back in the days when there were next to no laws regarding it, but there's zero chance as the money and attention has moved to it. There's political capital in demonising online discourse.


Have those warning labels been shown to work like at all? We already have awareness saturation about just how awful cigarettes are for you.


With the government executing this message to our youth, I think they'll work as well as the anti-piracy ones back in the day.

*You Wouldn't Steal a Car*


Yes. Almost no one smokes in Australia because of them


Lol no, no one smokes anymore mainly because it's a taboo and a pack of cigs is so expensive it's basically impossible to do so on the regular.

The labels don't do shit.


How do you think smoking went from something nearly everybody did to being taboo? Maybe the labels don’t do anything for the last 10% of the population who still smoke today, despite the taboo, but those labels played a big role in reinforcing public awareness of the health effects of smoking.


No they didn't, people got tired of the smell and public awareness of smoking came from watching family members die. Labels didn't do shit. Smoking was on the decline before the labels even showed up.


Warnings probably work better on products you're putting in your body. If you have blackened lungs on the cigarette packaging I can't imagine choosing to smoke.

On social media, you basically have to destroy my experience for me to stop using it in the same way. All effective options are terrible: ads, microtransactions, auto-playing unexpected sounds, nonresponsive interfaces.


What do you mean by work? Do they stop everyone from doing stupid things? No. Do they have a measurable effect on behavior? Yes.


So why don't we put them on guns?


We probably don't want to use the current leader in cause of death for kids as a template for good policy.


Not at all what I was suggesting. If warning labels save lives why are they not on guns?


My guess is gun advocates think its a restriction on the 2nd amendment?


The fact is, with the world we live in being like it is, why the fuck not smoke? For the chance to live a little further into the distopian hellscape of our impending future? Some reward that is for denying myself something I enjoy.


COPD fucking sucks, my dude. Living longer isn't the goal, living comfortably is and being unable to breathe all the time is the worst.

Grimy , edited

It's not a great plan to encourage yourself to smoke while expecting a future society with even worse healthcare


Even if the world becomes a hellscape do you want to meet your maker choking on bits of your own lungs or breathing normally?

That is why you shouldn't smoke. Lung cancer and COPD are not things you want to deal with if you want to do anything remotely physical later in life.


You would have to be an absolute moron to think smoking only kills you early. That's not how it works.

Even if you don't like the world around you today and aren't enthusiastic about the future, the way smoking kills you makes your day to day worse until you eventually get a very painful day to day until you eventually give out and die. You are advocating slowly committing both expensive and painful suicide over a 30 year span because you don't want to live for 40 more years.


These comments are a good reminder of how dumb many people here are. Good temperature check


I got a downvote for saying that smoking kills you slowly and eventually painfully. Like, how is that debatable at this point? Am I getting a downvote because I'm not vibing?


That downvote was probably from the dude you replied to just being a baby


“Childrens advocates “ have been backing the most egregiously unconstitutional, paternalistic, data broker friendly, moral panic, privacy dystopia bullshit bills around the country. “Childs advocates” are why we have anti pornography pearl clutching panopticon laws that require you to scan a government ID to jerk off. Fuck off with that.


I agree with all of this.

But this is none of that. This is informing people that the evidence says that excessive social media use does harm, because most people genuinely don't understand the risks.

Brewchin , edited

s/country/world/: FTFY

"Think of the children" is somehow the gotcha for so many of the hard-of-thinking amongst us.


This is a health issue, not a morality issue.


No, this is old as dirt shits upset that kids exist issue. Sorry Grandpa I won't turn the music down. Now go fuck off to Florida and play bingo until you die

technocrit , edited

There's no actual science about social media causing health problems like cigarettes.

It's a politician and state control issue.


I don't get why people think this idea is equivalent to stuff like internet access bans or COPPA, it's a warning label, not an "enter your ID" to access page.

They never banned cigarettes, but putting a giant warning on the box did help in vilifying cigarettes as very unhealthy and wrong.

I doubt it'll go anywhere in this age of government, but its exactly the type of thing I would have gone for if I were tasked with solving a societal issue. It's smart because it has no real effect on access, so social media companies would have a harder time fighting it, but it also gives a big bloody warning which does have a substantial psychological impact on users.

iirc someone did something similar with a very simple "are you sure?" app that gave a prompt asking if you were sure you wanted to post something or send a text. Just having a single prompt was enough for many people to reconsider their stupid text or comment.


Typical teen (and often preteen) response to be told to not do anything by adults: Say, "Yeah, right," and go off and do it anyway. Even if you block them outright, they'll find a way around it.

just another dev

Yeah, because that worked so well with tracking popups.


“Just look at what you’re grandparents are into…”


They been buttoning their knickerbockers below the knee and starting to memorize jokes!


rsuri , edited

Let he who has to deal with that friend who constantly sends blatantly false Xits to them throw the first stone. Honestly I feel like every social media post that makes a factual representation should come with a big flashing warning "THIS IS ALMOST CERTAINLY FALSE, LOOK IT UP BEFORE YOU REPEAT IT YOU DUMMY!"

And I'm only like 10% joking. Given the success of language models it should be moderately trivial to train one to recognize when a factual statement is made and apply the above warning. It's not even the children and teens I'm worried about. The people who seem to have the most trouble handling this are the adults.


I'm not sure where you're getting the idea that language models are effective lie detectors, it's very widely known that LLMs have no concept of truth and hallucinate constantly.

And that's before we even get into inherent biases and moral judgements required for any form of truth detection.

rsuri , edited

The point isn't to have it be a lie detector but a factual claim detector. So you have an neural network that reads statements and says "this thing is saying something factual" or "this is just an opinion/obvious joke/whatever" and a person grades the responses to train it. So then the AI just says "hey this thing is making some sort of fact-related claim" and then the warning applies no matter what.


Given the success of language models it should be moderately trivial to train one to recognize when a factual statement is made and apply the above warning.

Is it??? Because I feel like context is a real weak point for bots and ai to figure out.

Hell, it feels like half the HUMANS don't know whats factually true. Is the covid vaccine a society saving development which saved the lives of millions? Or is it full of bill gates mind control computer chips to rule over the portion of society dumb enough to get the vaccine willingly?

Who's to say?

uriel238 , edited

I call shenanigans. We've had bullying when I was a kid in the 70s. Has anything been done about it? No. Why? Because dominance hierarchy is in among our school districts and administrators, and they like sports team lettermen over science nerds. This hadn't changed in the aughts. It's still the same, today. Even when kids come in with proof of violence (e.g. phone camera video) the question is why did you have a phone in school? not can we identify the dude curb-stomping kids three times smaller than him?

We had hungry kids in the 70s. Have we done anything about it? No. We try to set up school lunches, but then the programs get cancelled because socialism bad! So kids are going hungry thanks to ideology.

Are we yet teaching sexual consent (or how about consent in other places like work and TOS?) No. We're teaching abstinence-only education in 26 states with comprehensive sex ed mandated in three (the west coast). We're teaching girls they're like chewing gum, that is, one-use, and a sexual assault destroys their value. And we're teaching boys their sexuality isn't welcome until they can afford to put a ring on it and have a salary in place, driving them to become alt-right war boys for Immorten Joe. ( WITNESS ME! )

So how about dealing with kids who are homeless? In poverty? In the abusive foster-care system? Dealing with DV at home? Not a god damn thing. Kids need food, shelter, basic needs like clothing, playtime, time to bond with their family, time to socialize, stability at home. Until they have these things, any energy we spend not arranging to providing these things is failure of society to serve basic child welfare for the public.

Warning labels on social media will not feed hungry kids, or assure their place to sleep is safe and warm, and we have an outrageous number of kids for whom the latter set are the problem, not dangers of social media. Also warning labels that are not congruent with current scientific consensus only weaken the veracity of tobacco product labels.

ETA: That's not the best link. This search leads to a wider array of stories, and TD is pretty good about including sources within each article.


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Go to pubmed. Type "social media mental health". Read the studies, or the reviews if you don't have the time.

The average American teenager spends 4.8 hours/day on social media. Increased use of social media is associated with increased rates of depression, eating disorders, body image dissatisfaction, and externalizing problems. These studies don't show causation, but guess what, we literally cannot show causation in most human studies because of ethics.

Social media drastically alters peer interactions, with negative interactions (bullying) associated with increased rates of self harm, suicide, internalizing and externalizing problems.

Mobile phone use alone is associated with sleep disruption and daytime sleepiness.

Looking forward to your peer-reviewed critiques of these studies claiming they are all "just vibes."


Kids these days with their new fangled smartphones. Back in my day we made new friends at a lynching or at the sockhop.

Everything after I was 21 is shit!


Teenage suicide rates were declining for over a decade, especially in males. Now they are increasing in both males and females. You would have to be a complete monster to not want to study, understand, and reverse this trend.


The homicide rate and suicide rate are inversely correlated. One goes up the other goes down. As a whole the country is getting less violent so this is a predictable result. And it doesn't require anyone to invent a communist plot to sap and unpurify our precious bodily fluids or gay frogs.

I agree it's far from ideal. I might suggest that we don't actively work hard to kill the middle class and maybe stop school shootings. But we won't do that when it is easier for us to blame Emmanuel Goldste--- sorry tik Tok.

doubtingtammy , edited

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Pretty disingenuous to say this person is acting like an antivaxxer for reading medical journals, when one comment down you admit to forming your opinion by browsing nature, and not being a field expert yourself.

Your comments display hypocrisy and you should commit one way or another.


If you do the search I suggested you will find relevant reviews immediately. If you add keywords based on my post text you will find the primary sources immediately.

enbyecho , edited

No, it’s just based on vibes.

You didn't bother looking, clearly.

Edit: I'm not saying I'm familiar with what the studies say, although some draw a clear link with adverse mental health impacts on kids. Not sure how far that goes. I'm also not saying I agree with the SG or the need for warning labels, but to say this is based on "vibes" is, ironically, speculative at best.


Tell me you didn't read the article without telling me.


Tell me you didn’t read the article without telling me.

Why would you conclude that? Because it conflicts with your "vibe"?


The onus is on the state to justify their control with science. They haven't done that and clearly you haven't done that either. You're literally just posting vibes.

enbyecho , edited

Do I really need to point out that you yourself are "literally just posting vibes" ?

You didn't even bother investigating whether or not they had justified their stance with science. I'm not convinced you made it past the headline, much less read any of the content that article linked to.

The funny thing is I actually did read two of the studies I quickly found and which you too can find. But you seem more interested in adhering to a certain... vibe.

Have a nice day.

Edit: You know I was busy and totally forgot.

The very first result on my search engine, if you search for "effects of social media on children's mental health" is the website, specifically this page:

And wouldn't you know, right there are 5 separate papers cited to support 1. that social media is widely used; and 2 it "presents meaningful harm to youth"


Oh we got trouble, right here in River City. We need something to keep the kids moral after school.


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So you acknowledge that you don't have the skills necessary to interpret papers so... what, you decide that Nature adequately represents their findings enough to dismiss them? Even though you say there is little evidence of a causative link? Even though the surgeon general says they feel there is and cites that evidence to back it up?

I mean... what?

doubtingtammy , edited

If the major psychological/pediatric organizations come out in support of this, I'll eat my words. [Edit] words: Eaten


I would interpret the American Academy of Pediatricians stance as being supportive. But that's open to interpretation, I suppose.

androogee (they/she) , edited

Playing hide and seek with kids when you just want a moments peace, picking up a throw pillow off the couch and looking under that, "gosh I just can't find a single kid and I'm looking so hard"


jeffw [OP]

Oh, did they have studies showing that the mods and rockers damaged people’s mental health? Is that how this is the same?


Probably yeah. The modern world is designed to hurt your mental health. Is that the fault of social media or simply the price of being aware? If I learned that many groups of people are being genocided from reading Wikipedia and that makes me depressed would you say Wikipedia causes mental issues?


That is apples and oranges. Clicking through rabbit holes isn't the result of an aggressive algorithm designed to prime you for products being advertised. The motivation for the content being hosted is the major issue and exploitation of younger people in service of that motivation.

nondescripthandle , edited

Advertising may be your problem, but I know the government's not taking the "we dont allow kids to be served ads", so then what, they're mad it's the Chinese in the lead? The Kids aren't gonna be better off playing COD and watching action movies both of which are lightly disguised military recruitment propaganda aimed at them. You may be mad about it but based on their actions it's not the fact kids are getting exploited that made the Surgeon General speak out, it's that's kids are getting exploited and someone else is benefiting.

The mental health isn't going to get better even if social media didn't exist in general. People would just find a different outlet to develop maladaptive coping strategies with. Treating the symptoms isn't gonna cure the root issue, but the root issue is expensive so we all know they're not going to touch that.


Yeah, warning labels just make people dumber and less safe somehow.


The advertising was an easy and obvious example. I set you up for a straw man but whatever. If you don't understand the harmful effects social media has on mental health and how it's different from other forms of media/content, I'm not going to hold your hand through that. The sophistication of engagement algorithms should be obvious. The purpose of a surgeons general warning would be to raise awareness of those specific mental health issues that can be aggravated by excessive social media use. Raising the awareness of an issue is step in the right direction. Fine to call it a band aid but there's no need to shit on progress of any type.



Probably with the same methodology that led to comic book burnings

Tom_Hanx_Hail_Satan , edited


Christian freak out 80 years ago vs modern doctors. Samesies, right? Ya dunce.

Comparing decades old satan panic stuff with modern behavioral sciences is legit the dumbest thing I've read today. Congrats.


80 years ago? The Covid microchip thing was 2 years ago and your best buddies are drinking raw milk again.


Lol what? You're going from comic book bans to covid microchips now. Idk you're weird.

technocrit , edited

This clown is comparing social media to cars and cigarettes. Cars are literally the leading killer of children. Cigarettes literally cause cancer... Social media? No. It's pathetic but completely normalized when so-called "scientists" promote absolute pseudo-science.

If these fools actually care about kids, reduce and ban cars. They'll never do anything actually productive for kids and humanity because they're profiting from complicity and exploitation. Let's see how long these politicians last if they go up against auto cartels and pretrol tyrants.

androogee (they/she)

Pretrol can still get you pregnant


So your argument is that you can't possibly imagine a bad consequence of social media, that the studies by scientists showing the negative aspects are "pseudoscience", that they don't actually care about children, and that these politicians are just pushing this message to make a profit.

Did I get it right?

What will you lose if children are warned about the dangers of social media anyways?