By NYC Health Commissioner and FPHNYC Board Chair, Dr. Ashwin Vasan
Earlier in June, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and NYC Office of the Mayor were proud to host a national convening on the contribution of social media to our youth mental health crisis. We brought together experts, academics, clinicians, former tech executives, parents, government agencies, and most importantly – YOUTH – from around the country, to define and tackle the issues we’re facing from this entirely unregulated technology and its impact on our children’s well-being.
This builds upon the priority we placed on this issue in our NYC Mental Health Plan released in March, and the recent U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory from Dr. Vivek Murthy, because we know that unregulated, unfettered access to social media and all of its content is harming our kids, regardless of potential positive attributes.
We don’t have all of the answers, which is why we held this convening to begin a serious dialogue with key stakeholders. But public health DOES offer the solutions. In NYC, we have led on the mitigation of harm from tobacco, air, lead, water, and other environmental exposures, and we must now treat unfettered access to social media as a digital toxin in our social environment, and explore paths to reducing and reshaping the exposure. We know what can work – education, research and evaluation, advocacy, policy, and regulation – of a system that currently operates without bounds, and to the detriment of our most precious resource, our kids. This convening will lead to a roadmap of actions we will take to protect New Yorkers and our children from harm. This is our commitment and our responsibility.
We’re proud to build on our strong history of public health leadership in NYC as we move into this digital frontier to keep our kids safe, healthy, and well. Thank you to The Rockefeller Foundation and Naveen Rao and Dr. Rajiv J. Shah for hosting us in your beautiful space. Thanks to the many partners who attended from across the country, including colleagues from the Boston Public Health Commission, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and big thanks to my team for putting together a fantastic day of conversation, education, and action. And most of all, thanks to the young leaders who came on a day off from school to help guide us and offer their lived experience of growing up in the social media age. As a parent, a doctor, and public servant, I know how important your voice is in this conversation.