Seattle Schools sue social media platforms.
the cyberwire logoJan 9, 2023

Seattle schools take social media to court, alleging damage to students' mental health.

Seattle Schools sue social media platforms.

Seattle Public Schools has filed a lawsuit against the parent companies of TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat, claiming that the social media platforms have driven a rise in mental and emotional health issues among youth.

Social media’s effects on young people.

The Seattle school district said in a statement that excessive social media use is harmful to young people, and social media companies have intentionally crafted their products to be addictive:

“Most youth primarily use five platforms: YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, on which they spend many hours a day. Research tells us that excessive and problematic use of social media is harmful to the mental, behavioral, and emotional health of youth and is associated with increased rates of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and suicide.

“The evidence is equally clear that social media companies have designed their platforms to maximize the time youth spend using them and addict youth to their platforms, as alleged in the complaint. These companies have been wildly successful in attracting young users. As of last year, almost 50 percent of teenagers in the state spent between one and three hours a day on social media and 30 percent averaged more than three hours a day.”

The statement added that school districts lack the resources to keep up with the demand for mental healthcare:

“School districts like Seattle Public Schools have been significantly impacted by the resulting crisis. Like school districts across the country, Seattle Public Schools’ schools and school-based clinics are one of the main providers of mental health services for school-aged children in the community. But the school counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses need greater resources to meet the high demand for services.”

Tech companies respond to Seattle Schools' lawsuit.

According to the AP, Snapchat’s parent company Snap responded in a statement outlining the measures it’s taken to provide mental health resources to users: “We will continue working to make sure our platform is safe and to give Snapchatters dealing with mental health issues resources to help them deal with the challenges facing young people today.”

José Castañeda, a spokesperson for Google (YouTube’s parent company), pointed to various parental controls available on YouTube. “We have invested heavily in creating safe experiences for children across our platforms and have introduced strong protections and dedicated features to prioritize their well being,” Castañeda said.