Seattle Public Schools sues social media companies amid youth mental health crisis
Listen to the article 3 min. This audio is automatically generated. Please let us know if you have any comments. Dive Brief: Laying the blame for the youth mental health crisis at the doorstep of social media companies, Seattle Public Schools has filed a lawsuit alleging the platforms purposefully designed, marketed and promoted the platforms to maximize use among children and teenagers, despite knowing the harm it would cause. The lawsuit alleges that the social media companies behind Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and TikTok violated Washington’s public nuisance law by sparking a mental health crisis in Seattle Public Schools. That law defines a public nuisance as something “that affects equally the rights of an entire community or neighborhood, although the degree of harm may be unequal.” Although the lawsuit sought an exact dollar amount, it seeks “equitable relief” to pay for education and treatment for excessive and disruptive social media use. The suit also seeks maximum statutory and civil penalties, including actual and compensatory damages allowed under public nuisance law. Dive Insight:
The Seattle Public Schools lawsuit cited President Joe Biden’s 2022 State of the Union address, in which he called for social media companies to be held accountable for their impact on young people’s mental health. The district said it is suing “to do just that.”
Noting that children were struggling even before the pandemic, Biden said: “We need to hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they are conducting on our children for profit.”
In 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared deteriorating mental health in children a national emergency. Although the issue predated COVID-19, it was exacerbated by the isolation of the lockdown, family health concerns, disruption of home life and other pandemic-related factors.
Additionally, a November study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found higher rates of youth suicide linked to mental health workforce shortages.
As a result of the social media companies’ alleged harm to the mental health of students in Seattle Public Schools, the district said in its lawsuit that it has had to hire more staff to address mental, emotional and social health issues. . The district said it has also created lesson plans for students to learn about the harms of social media. It has also had to increase disciplinary measures by spending more time addressing bullying, harassment and threats it claims is caused by social media.
In response to the lawsuit, Antigone Davis, global head of security at Meta, said the parent company of Facebook and Instagram has created more than 30 tools to help families and teens on their websites, Axios reports. Such tools include helping with parental supervision and allowing them to limit the time their children spend on Instagram, Davis said.
“We will continue to work closely with experts, policymakers and parents on these important issues,” Davis said.