- Center for Children and Youth
Social media has become an integral part of young people’s lives, but behind the screens lie serious risks that could jeopardize their mental wellbeing. Through impactful advocacy, JFCS is helping lead the charge to create a safer digital environment for young minds.
Social Media Risks
According to the US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, social media presents a “profound risk of harm” to young users. Teens and adolescents who spend more than three hours on social media per day have double the risk of experiencing depression or anxiety—and the average teen user spends about 3.5 hours a day on these services. A third of them say they’re on social media “almost constantly.”
Poor mental health outcomes associated with excessive social media use include: body image issues, disordered eating, depression, anxiety, drug use, self-harm, and worse. Adding insult to injury, platforms are known to promote content to young users that they know is dangerous, and to purposely deploy addictive features to keep kids on social media longer.
JFCS Advocates on Behalf of Children’s Mental Health
To address these issues, JFCS’ Center for Children and Youth is driving public policy advocacy efforts to hold tech companies accountable. SB 680 is a JFCS-supported bill that creates financial disincentives for social media companies to make product design decisions that hurt kids.
The measure, which was introduced by California State Senator Nancy Skinner, empowers the Attorney General and other public prosecutors to take tech companies to court to stop them from employing practices that they know endanger teens and tweens.
“Social media companies are no longer passive actors in the online marketplace,” Senator Skinner says. “They’re active participants that decide what users see and what they don’t. As a result, they must be held responsible when their algorithms purposely target our children with dangerous or harmful content.”
JFCS also will soon begin lobbying for the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), a federal bill that is closely aligned with SB 680. Owing to a recent surge in momentum, KOSA has just passed out of a key U.S. Senate committee and is now headed to the Senate Floor.
California Heeds JFCS’ Call for Student Mental Health Screenings
Holding tech companies accountable is a critical objective, but so is ensuring that young people’s mental health challenges don’t go unnoticed. Earlier this year, JFCS worked with State Assembly member Jesse Gabriel to develop and sponsor a bill that promotes universal mental health screening in California middle and high schools.
While the bill makes its way through the legislative process, the CA Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission responded to JFCS’ call for universal screening and has secured funding to complete a study on its implementation. JFCS is informing the study, which will continue to build further momentum for school-based screening.
Make Your Voice Heard
JFCS is grateful to all our partners in these initiatives, and we’re excited to provide opportunities to raise our collective voice in support of kids’ mental health! To learn more about how you can help advocate for the mental wellbeing of young people, please visit jfcs.org/advocacy and sign up for our Advocacy Alerts.