(The Center Square) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday declared social media an “environmental toxin” and called on state and federal lawmakers to do more to curb the influence of big tech companies over youth.
During his annual State of the City address, Adams blasted the tech giants and announced New York City’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, has declared unrestricted use of social media a “public health threat.”
Adams said with teen mental health issues on the rise in the Big Apple and elsewhere, more needs to be done to curb allegedly predatory practices of social media companies.
“Companies like TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook are fueling a mental health crisis by designing their platforms with addictive and dangerous features,” the Democrat said in his remarks. “We cannot stand by and let Big Tech monetize our children’s privacy and jeopardize their mental health.”
Adams accused the companies of putting profits before children’s privacy. They said the lack of safeguards on social media use is jeopardizing the mental health of an entire generation of youth. He said New York is the first major U.S. city to call out the dangers of social media.
“We won’t let Big Tech endanger our kids,” Adams said in remarks. “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.”
An advisory issued by the city’s health department on Wednesday urged parents and caregivers to delay giving children access to smartphones or social media until at least age 14.
Health officials also urged federal and state policymakers to expand on legislative proposals that protect youth from “predatory practices by social media companies.”
“Technologists, investors and others that interact with social media companies should advocate for social media companies to promote safer design of the platforms,” the advisory stated.
The advisory calls on “all New Yorkers” to “advocate to hold social media companies accountable and advance reform that protects youth from harmful and predatory practices.”
Social media companies are increasingly being blamed for rising rates of depression, suicidality and other mental health issues among youth nationally. In response, states and local governments are increasingly considering legislation and legal action to crack down on social media use.
In Congress, lawmakers are lining up behind the Kids Online Safety Act, a controversial bill intended to protect kids from dangerous content online. But the measure hasn’t progressed despite bipartisan support for the restrictions.
Overall, Adams struck a positive tone in his third State of the City address, saying the city is ‘back from the brink’ and boasting about a drop in crime and improved job growth despite the ongoing migrant crisis.
He outlined plans to create a Tenant Protection Cabinet to protect New Yorkers from unscrupulous landlords, a push to improve discipline within the New York City Police Department. He discussed a new initiative to regulate and license food delivery workers using e-bikes and other vehicles.
“The state of our city is strong — far stronger than it was when we came into office,” Adams said. “New York City is becoming a place where everyone has the opportunity to make it.”