Lawsuit: Social Media ‘Hooking’ Kids, Causing Mental Health Problems

A growing number of state governments and other entities are banning the use of TikTok due to security concerns based on the app’s close ties to China’s communist government.

This week, one public school district in Washington highlighted another troubling issue that is not limited to just that popular social media platform. A lawsuit filed by Seattle Public Schools claims that TikTok — along with YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat — have played a pivotal role in damaging the mental health of children across the United States.

Not only are these platforms designed to essentially turn young people into addicts, but the emphasis on attracting likes and followers is a contributing factor to the rising rate of depression and anxiety among American youth, the lawsuit asserts.

Many experts have made similar arguments, including University of Washington psychology professor Dr. Lucia Magis-Weinberg, who advised that such platforms “can actually put a number on whether you’re popular or not, how many likes you have versus how many likes I don’t have.”

“Defendants have successfully exploited the vulnerable brains of youth, hooking tens of millions of students across the country into positive feedback loops of excessive use and abuse of Defendants’ social media platforms,” the school district argues.

In response to the damage being caused by such apps, the lawsuit claims that schools have had to allocate money and other resources to provide specially trained staff and programs designed to warn kids about the potentially negative impact of social media use.

Attorney Felicia Craick works for the law firm representing Seattle Public Schools and cited statistics that highlight the crux of the district’s argument.

“As of last year, almost 50% of teenagers in the state spent between one and three hours a day on social media and 30% averaged more than three hours a day,” she said.

Furthermore, Craick asserted that it is “no coincidence” that the city has seen a marked increase in the number of “suicides, attempted suicides, and mental health ER visits” in recent years, adding: “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.”

The district is suing for monetary compensation and penalties against the named companies.

Superintendent Brent Jones issued a statement referencing “the negative impacts of increased screen time, unfiltered content, and potentially addictive properties of social media,” expressing hope that “this lawsuit is the first step toward reversing this trend for our students, children throughout Washington state, and the entire country.”