Should Social Media Come with a Warning Label?

May 27, 2019

Warning Label

We've talked about the pros, we've talked about the cons, and it seems like social media has some pretty serious drawbacks. If it's so harmful, should it be all-out banned, Prohibition style? Or at a minimum should social media come with warning labels, like those found on cigarette cartons?

Prince Harry has criticized social media as being "more addictive than alcohol and drugs" (he ought to know, remember his weekend in Las Vegas playing strip billiards), so should it be treated as an addictive substance? Here's the thing - there's a huge range of how addictive substances such as drugs and alcohol are handled. Cocaine, for example, is banned across the board. When it comes to alcohol, once you're 21, we trust that you can be a responsible adult with it. But wait, you say, children aren't allowed to use any of those substances, and yet they use social media incessantly! That's exactly right, and part of the reason this is such a big issue.

While social media should probably not be banned (remember all those positives we talked about? Plus, free speech and pesky First Amendment), it may be helpful and even necessary to add warning labels or age restrictions. So many people jump into social media because "it seems fun" or "everyone else does it" without thinking of the long-term repercussions on both a personal and societal level, and the most affected demographic seems to be children and teens. What does it tell us that the very people running social media companies (hi, Mark Zuckerberg) don't let their kids use social media or even a lot of technology?

Even politicians are taking notice; a state senator in Minnesota has authored a bill that would require social media sites to have warning labels pop up every time you sign on. The labels he proposes would warn users that social media is addictive, can lead to mental health issues, cause "social alienation," and can cause lack of sleep and attentiveness. While the bill still needs support to move on, it points out how widespread these issues are, and that this is something that we as a society will have to decide how to address moving forward.

For the sake of minimizing the negative effects of social media on the next generation, consider this blog post the first of the social media warning labels.


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