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How social networks are destroying the lives of young people: the opinion of the mayor of New York


Lyudmila Balabay

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New York City Hall sued on major social networks because of the damage they cause to the psyche of young people. In addition, the city health department recognized social networks as a “threat to mental health”. This week, Eric Adams prepared an address to citizens, in which he explained what threats the mayor's office sees on social networks and how it intends to combat them. Below is the text from the first person.

New York has always been a center of technology and innovation. And while technology is helping to create jobs and open up new opportunities, it also poses new dangers, especially when it comes to social media and the mental health of our children.

Protecting youth mental health is an important part of our administration's agenda. That's why last week we filed a lawsuit against the companies that own and operate five social networks. We want to hold them accountable for the role they played in fueling the mental health crisis among young people.

Recent statistics show that young people in New York City are experiencing anxiety and hopelessness more often than ever before. And suicide attempts among young people have risen to previously unseen levels. You don't have to have a child to understand the impact of social media on children's lives. Instead of talking to each other over lunch, our youth are glued to their screens. Instead of playing in the park with friends on a sunny day, young people are sitting at home scrolling through the Internet. And instead of learning confidence and resilience, they are exposed to content that often leads to insecurity and depression.

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New York City teens spend at least three hours a day in front of their phones or computers, and that doesn't include time spent on schoolwork. Much of this leisure time is centered on social networks, which have been designed to keep users engaged and spend as much time online as possible.

Even adults find it difficult to control their use of social networks, and it is even more difficult for young people. These platforms are designed with dangerous yet exciting features that take advantage of a child's natural interest in novelty and play.


Social media can undermine self-esteem, promote addiction, and often encourage reckless behavior such as riding on top of subway cars or stealing cars. We are facing a dangerous rise in the levels of disinformation, xenophobia, radicalization and incitement to hateful acts.

Instead of bringing people together, as social media originally promised, its platforms too often divide us, pit us against each other. TikTok's internal documents show that more than 20% of children are active on the platform between midnight and 5:00 a.m., the time they should be sleeping. In recent years, there has been a 40% increase in the number of high school students reporting persistent sadness and hopelessness.

Last month, New York declared social media a public health threat. We became the first major American city to speak clearly and directly about the dangers of social media. We treat social media the same way we treat other public health threats.

Last week we published an Action Plan to counter the threat of social media. First, we call on state and federal policymakers to pass laws that would require social media companies to ensure their platforms are safe for the mental health of youth.

Second, we are committed to providing media literacy and education to support our youth and families with children. This includes creating technology-free zones that encourage young people to interact in person.

Finally, our action plan includes research into the long-term impact of social media on young people. This will help to better understand the threat of social media and better address the harm caused by these platforms.

We know that some social media companies have begun to work to address these issues and we welcome these efforts, but this is not enough, the entire industry must do much more. We need to have workable and agreed standards, not a patchwork of advice that ends up shifting the burden onto parents, teachers and young people.

Our children, our families and our future are more important than profits. That's why we're taking bold action on behalf of millions of New Yorkers. This is a decisive step that, in the wider perspective, will shape the lives of our young people, our city and society as a whole for years to come.

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