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Teachers blast social media's effects on children

The American Federation of Teachers says there is a significant cost to education caused by children's social media use.
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Posted at 1:24 PM, Jul 21, 2023

The American Federation of Teachers issued a reportblasting social media's effects on students, saying it is the "root cause" of a mental health crisis among children in the U.S. 

The new report also claims social media platforms undermine classroom learning and increase costs for school systems. 

The teachers cite a U.S. Surgeon General's report that found teens who use social media for at least three hours a day have double the risk of poor mental health. The declining mental health among students, the federation says, has caused schools to hire more mental health professionals and train teachers to deal with mental illnesses. 

The American Federation of Teachers also noted dangerous social media trends like "slap a teacher" and swatting pranks, which also come at a cost to schools.

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The federation issued the following recommendations to social media platforms:

- Prioritize safety for children

- Protect students from overuse and addictive-like behavior 

- Protect students’ privacy

- Protect students from risky algorithms

- Directly engage and work with schools and families

“We are glad to work with educators, students, families and medical professionals on this set of recommendations, but it is not enough for us to simply endorse these improvements. Social media companies must act to ensure their products are designed with our kids’ safety in mind and reflect the challenges kids face at home and in the classroom,” president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten said.

University of Michigan data from 2021 indicates that many children have social media accounts before reaching 13. According to the survey conducted by the university, 49% of parents of children ages 10–12 report their kids having social media accounts. 

Sarah Clark, a research scientist in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan, previously told Scripps News it's important for parents to set limits for children, even if keeping them off social media entirely might not be realistic. 

"It is increasingly difficult not to engage on social media at all," Clark said. "In a lot of situations, there are a lot of positives to it, so it is hard to see where that line is because there is a viewpoint where kids are spending too much time on it or they’re going into more dangerous territory, whether it’s cyberbullying or the places where people are discussing eating disorder strategies. There are less positive subjects that are out there." 

But when kids reach those depths of social media, it can cause harm. Research published earlier this year indicates children who habitually sign onto social media at age 12 can see a change in their brain’s sensitivity to social rewards and punishments. 

TheMayo Clinic noted that overuse of social media by teenagers has been associated with high levels of depression and anxiety.