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New York City mayor declares social media a ‘public health hazard’

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and senior administration officials hold an in-person media availability at City Hall, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office/TNS)
January 26, 2024

New York City Mayor Eric Adams designated social media as an “environmental toxin” and “public health hazard” during his State of the City address on Wednesday, making New York City the first city in the United States to officially label social media as a “health hazard.”

During Wednesday’s State of the City address, Adams criticized social media companies for creating what he described as a “mental health crisis.”

“Companies like TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook are fueling a mental health crisis by designing their platforms with addictive and dangerous features,” Adams said. “We cannot stand by and let Big Tech monetize our children’s privacy and jeopardize their mental health.”

The New York City mayor announced that Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the city’s health commissioner, was issuing an advisory officially labeling social media as a public health hazard in the community.

In his speech, Adams announced that New York City is the first city in the United States to designate social media as a public health hazard. The mayor also emphasized that the city is going to take steps to address the social media “crisis” that is impacting children in New York City.

“We won’t let Big Tech endanger our kids,” Adams said. “Just as the surgeon general did with tobacco and guns, we are treating social media like other public health hazards and ensuring that tech companies take responsibility for their products.”

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The city’s social media advisory warned that rates of high schoolers struggling with “hopelessness” increased more than 42% in New York City from 2011 to 2021. The advisory also noted that 38% of New York City high schoolers stopped participating in their usual activities due to feelings of sadness and hopelessness, according to data recorded in 2021.

Vasan’s advisory suggested that parents consider “modeling healthy social media use, including sharing use practices and how to be thoughtful with use,” “implementing tech-free times and places in relevant settings that encourage in-person connection,” and “discussing social media use in an open-minded way with children and youth and providing support when they identify concerns.”

Parents were also recommended in the advisory to refrain from giving children access to social media and smartphones until the age of 14 and to develop a “family media plan” to encourage healthy social media habits.