Seattle Public Schools filed a lawsuit late last week against the Big Tech companies operating TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat and YouTube. The school district described the lawsuit as “the first step towards holding social media companies accountable for the harm they have wreaked on the social, emotional, and mental health of its students.”
“Students in the Seattle Public Schools, like students around the country, are struggling with anxiety, depression, thoughts of self-harm, and suicidal ideation,” the school district said in a Saturday news release. “As alleged in the complaint, this crisis was already growing before the pandemic and research has identified social media as playing a major role in causing mental health problems in youth.”
According to the complaint, students with mental health issues perform worse. The district said this forces schools to train teachers to identify and address such symptoms, hire trained personnel, and create additional resources to warn students about the dangers of social media. The lawsuit seeks compensation for monetary damages and other penalties.
“Our students – and young people everywhere – face unprecedented, learning and life struggles that are amplified by the negative impacts of increased screen time, unfiltered content, and potentially addictive properties of social media,” Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Brent Jones said on the Big Tech lawsuit. “We are confident and hopeful that this lawsuit is the first step toward reversing this trend for our students, children throughout Washington state, and the entire country.”
Meta Platforms and TikTok did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment. In emailed statements, Google said it has invested heavily in creating safe experiences for children across its platforms and has introduced “strong protections and dedicated features to prioritize their well being.” Snap Inc. said it works closely with many mental health organizations to provide in-app tools and resources for users and that the well-being of its community is its top priority.