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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Seattle schools sue TikTok and others for kids' mental-health crisis

Seattle Public Schools is suing social media companies, reports Julie Calhoun on King 5 News. TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat have contributed to the youth mental health crisis in the state, the suit charges.

Photo: Eren Li/Pexels

The increase in anxiety, depression, cyberbullying and eating disorders, especially among young girls, is partly due to social media, the suit charges.

From 2009 to 2019, there was a 30 percent increase in the number of Seattle Public Schools students who said they feel "sad or hopeless almost every day for more than two weeks," according to the district. As a result, "the district has been forced to divert resources, hire counselors, train teachers to recognize mental health issues, and plan lessons about the dangers of the platforms."

Seattle schools kept students in remote classes for more than a year. That undoubtedly contributed to their anxiety and depression too. Teenagers who spent the most time in remote learning were "lonelier and sadder" than in-person or hybrid students, concludes University of California at Davis researcher Drew Cingel.

Nearly all the 14- to 16-year-olds in the study used social media, but those "in virtual learning had the highest incidence of 'problematic' use: They were more likely to say that, frequently or always, they had trouble falling asleep because of social media or they struggled to log off."

The complaint centers on the defendants' conduct, not what third parties have posted, notes AP.

"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 complaint said. "Worse, the content Defendants curate and direct to youth is too often harmful and exploitive ...."
. . . "Defendants affirmatively recommend and promote harmful content to youth, such as pro-anorexia and eating disorder content."

"Internal studies revealed by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in 2021 showed that the company knew that Instagram negatively affected teenagers by harming their body image and making eating disorders and thoughts of suicide worse," reports AP.

"More than a thousand families are pursuing suits against social media companies including TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, Roblox and Meta, the parent company to Instagram and Facebook, reports Sharyn Alfonsi of CBS News. They blame the companies for their children's depression, anxiety and other mental-health problems.

Parents of a 14-year-old girl who hanged herself in 2020 found a simulated hanging video on her Instagram account, reports Bilal G. Morris on NewsOne. They are suing Meta, Instagram's parent company.

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