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Mayor Adams announces release of health department report on impacts of social media

NEW YORK – New York city Mayor Eric Adams and New York city department of health and mental hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan announced the release of “special report on social media and mental health,” a data report exploring the many factors around social media use and its impact on users’ mental health.

The report — a first in-the-nation from a public health agency — includes the results of two new surveys aimed at exploring the social media habits and mental health status of caregivers and their children.

The survey was completed by 22,484 parents, guardians, or other caregivers of a child or teen between the ages of 5 and 17 residing in New York City. The report follows numerous measures Mayor Adams and his administration have taken in the last year to tackle the youth mental health crisis, including taking multiple actions to hold social media companies accountable for their role in helping to fuel this crisis.

The report also comes amidst a groundswell of concern about the effects of unregulated social media on young people’s mental health, including a proposal by the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy to put warning labels on social media platforms.

“The results of this survey provide yet another confirmation of what we have long known: Social media platforms help to create a toxic environment that has detrimental effects on our young people,” said Mayor Adams.

“Our administration is committed to supporting our youth and bettering their mental health by launching programs like TeenSpace and by increasing access to mental health clinics in our public schools, as well as by taking on social media companies that are using their platforms to harm our children. As this week’s actions by the U.S. surgeon general demonstrate, we must all act to quickly combat this detrimental issue, or our children will be the ones who continue to suffer.”

“Social media is a useful tool to learn new things, connect with people, and so much more,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom.

“However, it is important we continue to understand its implications for our young people and this report helps us do just that. Approximately 93 percent of New York City teens use some form of social media and those who use these platforms report higher rates of anxiety than their counterparts not using the platforms. Thus, this report, the first-of-its-kind by a city health department, helps us chart a path forward as we continue supporting young people and families with the report’s recommendations and advocating for greater state and federal action in building stronger guardrails for young people online.”

“A stronger and locally-based understanding of the connections between social media and mental health is critical to our continued efforts to protect the wellbeing of New York’s children and teens,” said DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Vasan.

“Everyone — from educators to parents to policymakers — are wrestling with the everyday impacts that social media is having on all of us, and how to implement effective and protective approaches to mitigate harm, particularly on our young people. These findings will inform and advance our policies and programs designed to address the mental health challenges our young people face, and the role that social media is playing.”

Findings of today’s report include:  A majority of children, teens, and adults report using social media and while more than 40 percent of parents surveyed feel that their children use “too much” social media, 78 percent believe the government should put restrictions on the type of access social media companies give to teens.

Parents of New York City teens who use social media are more likely to report that their teen has an anxiety diagnosis (27 percent) or depression diagnosis (14 percent) than parents of teens who do not use social media. Parents who use social media are also more likely to have indicators of depression or anxiety, compared with those who do not.

Frequency of mental health diagnoses and symptoms increase with rates of use. Among teens who report using social media daily, 90 percent report worrying in general and 56 percent report at least some depressive symptoms.

Most teens surveyed report turning to social media to be entertained, to learn new things, or out of boredom. Those who report boredom as their top reason are more likely to report worrying about the future compared with those who do not report boredom as their top reason.

Rates of use and impacts vary by neighborhood poverty and type of school attended. Teens who live in areas of very high poverty report using social media more than their counterparts who live in wealthier neighborhoods, representing a nearly 10 percent difference between the two groups.

Children who attend public or charter schools are more likely to use social media than their counterparts in private school.

Recommendations from the report include expanding access to educational resources to raise awareness of healthy habits; implementing social media safety and digital literacy programs to help teenagers use social media responsibly; expanding community resources to offer social alternatives to time online; establishing and enforcing regulations requiring social media companies to implement robust content moderation policies, digital well-being features, and data privacy protections to better protect teens; and continuing to study the impact of social media on mental health for young people.

Along with this report, DOHMH is releasing resources to support parents, caregivers and youth-serving organizations.

The Adams administration has long been vigilant in its pursuit to support New Yorkers, particularly young people, needing mental health care as a result of the toxic environment caused by social media platforms.

Last November, Mayor Adams announced “TeenSpace” — the city’s tele-mental health service available to all New York City teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 years old at no cost. In its first six months alone, the service — created in partnership with online therapy platform Talkspace — has allowed more than 6,800 New York City teenagers to connect with a licensed therapist through phone, video, and text.

In his State of the City address earlier this year, Mayor Adams announced that DOHMH issued a Health Commissioner’s Advisory, identifying unfettered access to and use of social media as a public health hazard, just as past U.S. surgeons general have done with tobacco and firearms, and recommending parents delay initiation of social media for their child until at least age 14.

This was soon after followed by the Adams administration filing a lawsuit to hold the owners of five social media platforms — TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube — accountable for their role in helping to fuel the nationwide youth mental health crisis and force tech giants to change their behavior, as well as the release of a social media action plan  to hold different platforms accountable, provide education and support to young people and families, and study the long-term impacts of social media on youth.

Additionally, in April, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and NYC Health + Hospitals, the administration announced it will open 16 mental health clinics in New York City public schools over the next six months to serve over 6,000 students across the Bronx and Central Brooklyn.

And last month, DOHMH released the “State of Mental Health of New Yorkers,” which presented data from across age groups, spanning children and youth to adults, including formal diagnoses, measures of well-being, and environmental factors that may affect mental health outcomes, and established a clear post-pandemic baseline for mental health in the city.

All of these actions followed the release of “Care, Community, Action: A Mental Health Plan for New York City,” Mayor Adams’ sweeping mental health agenda — with over $20 million in new commitments — that invested in, among other initiatives, child and family mental health. With the release of that plan, DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Vasan issued a separate commissioner’s advisory highlighting the risks of social media and tools to help build healthier habits around use.

Additionally, the plan laid the groundwork for a 2023 summit on social media the Adams administration hosted with more than 150 advocates, researchers, technologists, and caregivers, in partnership with New York City youth, to lay out potential pathways for action to protect the mental health of children and youth.

Alongside the Adams administration’s focus on mental health, Mayor Adams also launched “HealthyNYC”last November, an ambitious plan to extend the average lifespan of all New Yorkers, including reducing the impact of mental health related deaths like overdoses, suicide, and homicides by 2030, and by expanding, among other initiatives, access to culturally responsive mental health care and social support services, including early intervention for communities of color and LGBTQIA+ youth, and addressing the impact of social media on youth mental health and suicidal ideation to reduce suicide deaths.

“I commend Mayor Adams and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on this special report examining the negative influence of social media on youth mental health throughout our city,” said U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat.

“Our collaboration today, working across all levels of government and in coordination with community partners, will provide parents and caregivers the necessary tools to help navigate and protect the mental health and wellness of our young people as they engage online.”

“This crucial study makes it clear: big social media companies have been wreaking havoc on young people’s mental health,” said New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes.

“That’s why I’m so proud the state recently passed my legislation to regulate addictive algorithms and predatory data collection, so that big tech companies don’t profit unchecked off of our kids. Like cigarettes, car crashes, and other public health crises, tackling this problem requires bold, creative work from leaders at every level of government. I’m grateful to Mayor Adams and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for this important report.”

“The data is clear: there is a direct correlation between the explosion of social media and a rise in the rates of self-harm, anxiety and depression, and suicide amongst kids and teens,” said New York State Assemblymember Nily Rozic.

“Now, New York is taking the lead with decisive action to protect our kids from the harmful influence of addictive algorithms and unchecked data collection enacting the SAFE for Kids Act and the New York Child Data Protection Act. This is a very significant step in protecting young people in the digital age and I thank Mayor Adams and Commissioner Vasan for their efforts and today’s report.”

“Today we release a historic first-in-the-nation report exposing how unregulated social media is harming the mental health of millions of families,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar.

“Social media use is a driver of depression, anxiety, and negative body images — all of which place tremendous strains on families. Worst of all, some parents must face the pain of burying their children who died attempting social media challenges. Ever since we filed the groundbreaking lawsuit against social media companies, we have been making a full-frontal assault against the public health crisis social media wrought. I was proud to help pass the SAFE for Kids Act to crack down on addictive social media algorithms luring in our children and am building on this work with my own original legislation creating a state office to oversee algorithms. Together, we will free our children from social media addiction and end its negative influence.”

“The data is clear: we are experiencing a mental health crisis in our nation that is being further exacerbated by the additive effects of social media on our youth and their families,” said Bronx Borough Vanessa L. Gibson.

“I believe social media to be an invaluable tool with benefits that have helped to advance our society, but social media has also had devastating effects on the mental well-being of our residents and their families. I want to thank Mayor Adams and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for prioritizing this issue. I look forward to working with the administration to develop concrete strategies and solutions that support our residents’ emotional, mental, and physical well-being.”

“Social media has a significant impact on everyone, particularly young people whose minds are still forming,” said New York City Councilmember Lynn Schulman, chair, Health Committee.

“That is why this report on the impact of social media on families is so important and timely. With the city’s investment in this first-of-its-kind study, we now have the information necessary to address the mental health issues that have arisen as a result of social media use.”

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