TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube; and their parent companies are facing yet another lawsuit over mental health issues in children. This time, it comes from Seattle’s public school district, claiming that apps have had a major role in the “youth mental health crisis.”
The district accuses social media platforms of causing a variety of mental health and behavioral issues in children and being “exploitive and manipulative.” According to the lawsuit, all these platforms are deliberately manipulating and exploiting users, targeting particularly the youngest ones among them.
“Defendants’ growth is a product of choices they made to design and operate their platforms in ways that exploit the psychology and neurophysiology of their users into spending more and more time on their platforms,” the lawsuit reads. It points out that these techniques have particularly affected and harmed the youth audience. According to the lawsuit, these platforms have “intentionally cultivated” all of these techniques, creating a “mental health crisis among America’s youth.”
We can all agree that spending too much time on social media harms mental health. This is especially dangerous for children who aren’t fully developed in terms of self-awareness and critical thinking. After all, even Meta itself admits that Instagram has a terrible effect on teenagers. This is bad on its own, but the school district lawsuit points out another set of consequences related to children and their time at school.
“In the 2021–22 school year, 96 percent of public schools reported offering at least one type of mental health service to their students,” the lawsuit reads. And as it appears, more and more students are seeking them. However, the need for these services is increasing as children suffer from more and more mental health and behavioral issues. As much as 88 percent of surveyed public schools “did not strongly agree that they could effectively provide mental health services to all students in need.” There aren’t enough mental health professionals to tackle these issues, access to licensed mental health professionals is inadequate, and there aren’t enough funds.
Perhaps you remember that this isn’t the first time social media were accused of affecting a teenager’s suicide. In 2022, two women sued Instagram and Snapchat over their children’s suicides. Snapchat, Google, and Apple were also sued for failing to protect kids from online predators. But to my knowledge, this is the first time that the entire school district has filed a lawsuit this big. Overusing social media causes major issues in children, and it has further implications for their behavior, learning, self-esteem… And ultimately, it affects their loved ones and the entire school system these children are a part of.