Youth Technical and Social Media Education to Get $2 Million Under New HHS Program

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The National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellness aims to provide mental health support and education for young users.

$2 million in federal funding will be dedicated to establishing the inaugural National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellness, a new organization dedicated to helping children and young adults safely navigate social media with their mental health in mind. 

The Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration all oversee the center. In addition to providing guidance and support for young social media users, the center will also study clinical interventions that may help prevent user risks.

“There are benefits to social media use, but there are clearly risks, too—especially when it comes to mental health,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This new center will help our families better protect our children from lurking dangers. And it’s one more example of HHS’ commitment to strengthen mental health.”

Three priorities were noted as being critical to the center’s mission, including youth education on social media usage’s risks and benefits, cultural technical assistance to aid this learning, and best practices available to use social media and preserve mental wellness. 

The Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellness is a part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s larger plan to expand mental health support access nationwide. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy oversaw the publication of a 2021 report titled “Protecting Youth Mental Health,” which addresses social media usage and the associated health risks.

Both the report and the Center also address more overt online dangers, including cyberbullying, harassment and stalking. 

Harm stemming from social media platforms has made national headlines recently, with regulators keen to wrangle Big Tech’s algorithm patterns to reduce mental health distress among users as private companies work to keep users constantly engaged on their individual platforms. 

The $2 million financial allocation will occur every year for the next five years. 

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