More School Systems Suing Social Media Companies Over Mental Health

(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

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Following the example of Seattle Public Schools, more school districts across the country are suing social media companies for reportedly contributing to a growing mental health crisis among the nation’s youth.

School districts in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida have joined the Seattle district, which filed a lawsuit in January, in declaring that social media companies should be held accountable for creating addictive sites that have contributed to a “disastrous” mental health crisis, The Washington Post reported.

“Powerful corporations who wield unmatched, highly concentrated technology in pursuit of profit are knowingly creating this unprecedented mental health crisis. YouTube, Snap, TikTok and their related companies have carefully cultivated the crisis, which is a feature—not a bug—of their social media products,” a 107-page complaint from Northern California’s San Mateo County Board of Education read.

“Using perhaps the most advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning technology available in the world today, [social media companies] purposefully designed their platforms to be addictive and to deliver harmful content to youth,” the complaint continued, adding that the result has been “a youth mental health crisis” that “has exploded” nationwide.

For proof, the suit points to recent findings from a Youth Risk Behavior survey, which showed that nearly one in three teen girls have contemplated suicide and that a growing number of students across every demographic felt persistently sad or hopeless.

San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee told the Post that increased social media use has a detrimental effect on students, arguing that students have endured “very serious” cyberbullying incidents and have even stayed home as a result. (RELATED: TikTok Unveils New Features To Limit Kids’ Screen Time)

Magee also pointed to infamous TikTok challenges that have wreaked havoc at schools across the country in the form of broken bathroom mirrors, flooded toilets, and stolen soap dispensers. “The social media companies create the platforms and the tools, but the impacts are felt by schools, and I would really like to see an understanding of that,” Magee told the Post.

County Commissioner Bob Harvie of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who brought a lawsuit March 14, voiced similar concerns. “The negative effects these platforms have are real, they are serious, they are quantifiable, and they cannot be allowed to continue,” he stated in a press release about the suit.

Harvie also told the Post that social media platforms’ addictive algorithms are “not unlike the way cigarette companies used to manipulate nicotine levels to make sure that people kept smoking.”