WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWLP)– The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be funding a new initiative aimed at making social media platforms safer for children and youth.

A national Center of Excellence (CoE) on Social Media and Mental Wellness will develop and share information, guidance, and training on the impacts of social media on children and youth, especially the risks to their mental health. The program will also look into clinical and social interventions to help provide support and reduce risk.

“In the past decade , the number of children and youth diagnosed with mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, has significantly increased, concurrent with significant increases in the amount of time children and youth are spending on social media,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “While there are benefits to social media use, there are clearly risks, too – especially when it comes to mental health. This new center will help us better protect children and youth from these harms.”  

A report from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office has found evidence that social media can be harmful to many kids’ and teens’ mental health, well-being, and development.

The program will focus on three priorities:

  • 1) education and resources around the risks and benefits of social media use for children and youth;
  • 2) culturally and linguistically appropriate technical assistance focusing on active learning, consultation, and support on how to best assist children and youth when interfacing with the digital world in a way that enhances their mental health while reducing harm; and
  • 3) best practices and research updates.

The CoE will receive $2 million through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Anyone in need of mental health or substance use treatment can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) or use this link to the website.