Seattle Schools lawsuit says social media firms are creating mental health crisis

  • Social media companies are named in a lawsuit filed by the Seattle Public School District.
  • The suit accuses Meta, Google, TikTok and Snap of creating a mental health crisis among America’s youth.
  • It is claimed that the companies designed their platforms to exploit human psychology and be addictive.

Giant social media companies are accused of “creating a mental health crisis among America’s youth” in a lawsuit filed Friday by the Seattle Public School District.

The suit, which Insider has reviewed, names Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, Google and their affiliates as defendants, slamming their business models and claiming they harm youth.

Seattle’s public school system said it had a responsibility to hire the case because children who suffer from mental health problems perform less well in school and are less likely to participate at all, which affects the schools’ educational mission.

The lawsuit alleges that the apps “have succeeded in exploiting the vulnerable minds of youth, hooking tens of millions of students across the country into positive feedback loops of excessive use and abuse of the defendants’ social media platforms.”

It added that the content they “curate and target young people is all too often harmful and exploitative,” pointing to examples encouraging self-harm, and an extreme diet for “corpse abuse.”

Increasing incidence of mental disorders, further exacerbated by the pandemic, is claimed to be a consequence of this.

According to the American Psychological Association, the proportion of 12- to 17-year-olds experiencing major depression increased 52% from 2005 to 2017. During the first seven months of Covid-19 lockdowns, the APA later reported, mental health emergency department visits for the same age group increased by 31% compared to 2019.

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, was fined $403 million by Irish regulators in September 2022 for failing to protect children’s privacy. It was fined another $414 million on January 4, amid a row over whether it must ask users for consent to track them for advertisers.

The lawsuit also cites President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address last year, in which he said, “We must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they are conducting on our children for profit.”

A Snap spokesperson said that “nothing is more important to us than the well-being of our community,” and it works closely with mental health organizations to provide users with “resources to help them address the challenges facing young people today.”

Google, Meta and TikTok did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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