Educational organizations are suing social media platforms over allegedly manipulating children, causing in-school issues.
The Board of Education of Charles County in Maryland has added its name to the growing list of school districts suing social media giants for the harmful effects their platforms have on students. Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram have all been named in the lawsuit, as well as others. It accuses these companies of causing a mental health crisis among young people for financial gain. In addition, the board alleges that because the school systems are the primary caregivers when it comes to mental health care for students, they are being unfairly burdened with cleaning up the aftermath of these companies’ harmful products.
Dozens of school districts from across Maryland as well as throughout the United States have filed similar suits contending that social media companies target children for developing harmful addictions by using algorithms to push unhealthy content directly to minors.
While the platforms are meant for use only among people over the age of 13, the lawsuit further alleges that the social media giants aren’t doing enough to enforce this policy. The plaintiff also states the platforms use the need that young people have to feel accepted and connected to others to generate traffic. This leads young people to deal with issues like depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the idea that social media companies are well aware of the negative effects of their products, and they continue to use manipulation to push them to minors. Superintendent of Schools Maria V. Navarro, Ed.D. stated she sees the harm that these platforms do every day and witnesses firsthand how it exacerbates mental issues that some students already struggle with.
Prince George’s County’s public school system is also suing social media companies including WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, and Google for continuing to target children and provide damaging content. Attorney for the school district, Philip Federico, said the design and targeting of children is absolutely intentional and that the detrimental content can lead to problems as severe as eating disorders, depression, and social media addiction.
This all impacts the school in several ways. It creates outbursts and arguments in-person that originated online. The platforms also distract students from learning, both in the classroom and at home. The most concerning problem is that it leaves students with long-term, sometimes even permanent, mental health issues that must be cared for by educators and the school system, costing them precious man-hours as well as additional funds.
To complicate matters even more, school systems across the country are facing a shortage of on-site mental health professionals. This means that issues are even quicker to fall on educators who may or may not have the background to handle these types of problems.
While communities wait for the courts to litigate this matter between the schools and social media giants, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends that parents encourage healthy habits and limit activities that involve excessive screen time at home in order to combat this ever-growing problem.