Seattle Schools Sue Tech Companies for Damaging Kids' Mental Health

Seattle Schools Sue Tech Companies for Damaging Kids’ Mental Health

Seattle Schools Sue Tech Companies for Damaging Kids’ Mental Health: In an innovative lawsuit, the Seattle public school district is attempting to hold the digital titans behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat responsible for the child mental health epidemic.

The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court on Friday by Seattle Public Schools. The social media giants are accused of making a public nuisance by marketing to children, according to the 91-page complaint.

It accuses them of escalating mental health and behavioral issues like anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and cyberbullying; making it more challenging to educate students; and pressuring schools to take actions like hiring more mental health specialists, creating lesson plans about social media effects, and giving teachers more training.

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Tens of millions of pupils across were drawn into positive feedback loops of excessive usage and misuse of the defendants’ social media platforms, the complaint claimed. “Defendants have successfully exploited the susceptible brains of youngsters,” it stated. Worse, the defendants frequently curate and direct harmful and exploitative information toward young people.

Requests for comment on Saturday were not immediately answered by Meta, Google, Snap, or TikTok. The lawsuit contends that even though federal law, specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, helps shield online businesses from liability resulting from content that third parties publish on their platforms, that provision does not shield the tech giants’ actions in this case.

The complaint claimed that defendants should be held accountable for their actions rather than for what others may have said on their platforms. “Defendants affirmatively promote and suggest harmful materials to young people, such as material that supports anorexia and eating disorders.”

According to the lawsuit, the proportion of Seattle Public Schools students who reported feeling “so depressed or hopeless practically every day for two weeks or more in a row” that they stopped doing several common activities increased by an average of 30% from 2009 to 2019.

The school district is requesting that the court issue a cease-and-desist order, award damages, and make the firms pay for treatment and preventative programs for people who use social media in an unhealthy or excessive way.

It’s unclear if any other school districts have complained similar to Seattle’s, even though hundreds of families are suing the businesses over alleged harms social media has caused to their children.

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Internal research made public in 2021 by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen indicated that the business was aware of Instagram’s harmful effects on teenagers, including how it harmed their body image and exacerbated eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. According to her, the platform put profits ahead of user safety and withheld its research from investors and the general public.