U.S. Surgeon General speaks on social media and mental health at Lincoln event

April 3, 2024, 6 a.m. ·

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy spoke to several hundred attendants at an event hosted by Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln Tuesday. (Photo by Sarah Lawlor/Nebraska Public Media News)

The U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy made his first-ever visit to Nebraska Tuesday.

Murthy visited Lincoln North Star High School and Bryan Medical Center, where he spoke to a crowd of several hundred people about the impact of social media on youth mental health.

“I look at the rising rates of anxiety, depression and suicide,” Murthy said. “I look at the depths of a mental health crisis that is hurting and pulling apart families all across America. And I asked myself, What could be more important than protecting our children?”

Last year, Murthy issued a surgeon general’s advisory on the epidemic of loneliness and isolation and its ties to social media usage.

At Bryan Medical Center Tuesday, Murthy said screen time was having a negative impact on children’s sleep, relationships and learning.

To combat the negative effects, he advised parents to keep their kids from accessing their phones during family mealtimes and late at night.

He also lauded the Lincoln Public Schools’ policy banning phone usage in classrooms.

Speaking with reporters after the event, Murthy said there is a need for more federal regulations on social media companies.

“We not only need a far greater set of rules to protect our children, but we really got to make sure that those rules are enforced, and right now, even the the minimal rules we do have are not being adequately enforced.”

Murthy also said stronger laws are necessary to ensure companies are not violating the privacy rights of social media users.