Social media can have “extremely harmful effects” on the mental health of children and teenagers, the United States’ chief medical officer warns and calls on tech giants to take action, in a report released Tuesday.

“We are experiencing a national crisis in youth mental health, and I fear that social media may be a major driver of this crisis – something we urgently need to respond to,” warns Vivek Murthy in a statement accompanying the report.

More research is needed to “better understand the effects of social media” on young people, but “overwhelming evidence” shows it can have negative consequences, he says in the 19-page report.

Studies have, for example, found a link between the use of social media and the occurrence of depressive symptoms. By pushing young people to compare themselves, these platforms can hurt their self-esteem, according to Vivek Murthy.

Young girls may be even more vulnerable. Using these platforms exposes them more than boys to cyberbullying or even developing eating disorders, according to research cited by Vivek Murthy.

All young people may also be exposed to “dangerous” content, showing for example violent or sexual acts, the arch doctor insists.

Tech companies should set a “minimum age” for children who want to join their social media, as well as create firm parameters to better protect their privacy, he argues.

Up to 95% of young Americans ages 13 to 17 say they use some form of social media, with one-third using it “almost constantly,” according to the Pew Research Center.

Social media, and especially its effects on younger people, is a source of concern in the United States.

Montana last week passed a law to ban the TikTok app from next year, becoming the first US state to take such an initiative.

In addition to the issue of data and misinformation, local elected officials blame the platform for its negative effects on the mental health of younger people. Even if Democratic representatives had replied that these risks also concern other social media.

In March, Utah passed a law requiring social media sites to seek parental consent before granting minors access to their platforms.