Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Seattle schools sue social media giants for student 'mental health crisis'

Seattle Public Schools recently filed a lawsuit in US District Court of Washington alleging that the tech giants behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat should be held accountable for a “mental health crisis” among the youth attending their schools, reported Jurist.

The school district argued that the “excessive and problematic” use of social media among students has resulted in widespread financial and operational damage to the school district while social media companies profit.

The lawsuit alleges that the district has been forced to expend resources on additional services as a result of this crisis, including providing counseling services to students, creating lesson plans around the dangers of using these platforms, and investigating online social media threats made against the schools and their students. Further, the suit highlights the impact that this has had on their ability to carry out their educational functions:

Students experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues perform worse in school, are less likely to attend school, more likely to engage in substance use, and to act out, all of which directly affects Seattle Public Schools’ ability to fulfill its educational mission.

The complaint also asserts that “This mental health crisis is no accident,” claiming that the defendants consciously took action to design and market their platforms to attract young users.

In a statement on the suit, the district highlighted some of the statistics behind their claim, including the fact that one in five children aged 13 to 17 now suffer from a mental health disorder. Seattle Public Schools also noted that, according to the latest data, almost 50 percent of teenagers in the state spend between one and three hours a day on social media, while 30 percent average more than three hours a day. The statement claims:

The evidence is equally clear that social media companies have designed their platforms to maximize the time youth spend using them and addict youth to their platforms […] More than 90% of youth today use social media […] The increase in suicides, attempted suicides, and mental-health related ER visits is no coincidence.

Although many have criticized the negative effect of social media on youth mental health, Seattle Public School’s suit appears to be the first of its kind to be filed by a school district.

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