Seattle Public Schools filed a lawsuit Friday against several social media companies. They claim that they have “created” youth mental health crises that directly affect teachers’ ability to teach students and limit school resources.
According to the lawsuit, social media platforms have violated Washington’s public nuisance laws. The suit seeks maximum compensatory damages from the parent companies for Facebook, Instagram TikTok Snapchat, and YouTube. According to the complaint, damages will be used for expanding SPS’s mental healthcare resources.
The district claimed that the defendants had “exploited youth’s vulnerable brains, hooking tens to millions of students across the nation into positive feedback loops through excessive use and abuse on Defendants’ social media platforms.”
SPS reports that nearly half of Washington students spend one to three hours a day on social media platforms. Another 30% admit to spending more than three hours a day.
SPS Superintendent Brent Jones stated that students and all young people face unimaginable learning and life challenges. These are made worse by increased screen time, unfiltered information, and the addictive potential of social media. We are optimistic that this lawsuit will be the first step in reversing the trend for our students and children across Washington State, as well as the country.
SPS claimed that the lawsuit was brought by youths who “are suffering from anxiety, depression, and thoughts of self-harm.”
District officials argued that social media platforms increase the youth mental health crisis and strain the district’s resources. SPS plans to hire more social workers, psychologists, and school counselors.
SPS stated that “this crisis was already growing prior to the pandemic” and that research has shown social media plays a significant role in creating mental health problems in youth.
According to the lawsuit, social media giants were cited as being responsible for an increase in anxiety, depression, and cyberbullying among young people.
The district stated that research shows that social media use is detrimental to youth’s mental, behavioral, and emotional health. It is also associated with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, as well as suicide.
SPS stated that taxpayers shouldn’t bear the cost of the mental health crisis created by social media companies.
Meta, the company that owns Instagram and Facebook, spoke to KING-TV. They said, “We want teens to be safe online… We automatically make teens’ accounts private when they sign up for Instagram, and we send them notifications encouraging them to take regular breaks.” We do not allow content that encourages suicide, self-harm, or eating disorders.
YouTube spokesperson said that Google has invested heavily in creating safe environments for children… Parents have the ability to set reminders and limit screen time, as well as block certain types of content from supervised devices.
A Snapchat spokesperson stated to the Associated Press that they will continue to work to ensure the safety of the platform and to provide resources for Snapchatters with mental health issues to help them cope with today’s challenges.
According to the New York Post and KING-TV as well as the Associated Press, TikTok didn’t respond to a request to comment.