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Surgeon General warns of social media risks for kids, but doctors say there are benefits, too

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The US Surgeon General says social media presents a "profound risk of harm" to children.

MADISON (WKOW) -- The U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory Tuesday, detailing the impacts of social media on kids' mental health. 

The report says nearly all teenagers and 40% of 8- to 12-year-olds use social media, and it outlines serious concerns. The Surgeon General says social media presents a "profound risk of harm" to children. 

Forty-six percent of teens report social media making them feel worse about their body, and almost two-thirds of them say they see hate-based content "often" or "sometimes."

Dr. Megan Moreno, an adolescent medicine pediatrician at UW Health, says that exposure can be harmful for kids. 

"These products were designed by adults, for adults," she said. "So maybe it's time to look at those through a little bit more of a teen lens."

The report also says children who use social media for more than three hours each day have an increased risk for poor mental health, including anxiety and depression. A recent survey found teens spend an average of 3.5 hours each day on the platforms.

However, the report also highlights the potential benefits of social media. 

"75% of kids describe feeling more connected due to social media," Moreno said. 

Studies have shown social media can support mental health for kids in the LGBTQ+ community. 

That's why Moreno cautions against parents taking a one-size-fits-all approach. 

"For adolescents, they're each a unique individual and have unique experiences on social media," she said. 

Moreno said there are tools available for parents trying to balance the good and bad sides of social media. She recommends looking at the Family Media Use Plan tool from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

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