SPS filed a lawsuit against the social media company alleging that they are contributing to the teen mental health crisis, which is also plaguing the school district.
SEATTLE – Seattle Public Schools, the nation’s largest school district, is suing the major social media companies behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat over their impact on teen mental health.
Attorneys say Seattle Public Schools (SPS) may be the first district in the country to sue a social media company. The 92-page lawsuit alleges the social media giant violated Washington’s public nuisance laws and knowingly contributed to the state’s youth mental health crisis.
More than 16 million daily users of TikTok are under the age of 14. That’s just one statistic presented in the SPS lawsuit that attacked social media giants like Meta, Snapchat, and YouTube on Friday.
The school district is represented by Keller Rohrback, a Seattle-based firm that regularly litigates the most prominent corporate defendants on behalf of school districts and local governments.
The lawsuit alleges that the social media company knowingly contributed to the mental health crisis of youth.
“Now you can actually put a number on what’s popular or not, how many likes you have versus how many likes I don’t have,” said Dr. Lucia Magis-Weinberg.
Magis-Weinberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington studies adolescent development in the digital age and what causes mental health crises.
“It’s a complex mix, in which social media, of course, plays a role. But it’s not the full story,” said Magis-Weinberg.
The lawsuit detailed allegations that the social media company deliberately marketed to younger users to keep them coming back.
In a statement from Felicia J. Craick, attorney for Keller Rohrback, said, “Last year, almost 50% of teenagers in the country spent between one and three hours a day on social media and 30% averaged more than three hours. a day.”
The suit alleges social media has contributed to increased anxiety, depression, cyberbullying and eating disorders, especially among young girls.
“We know that comparing yourself is very dangerous for self-esteem and mental health. And there are some aspects of social media that make comparing yourself to others easier than ever,” said Magis-Weinberg.
The lawsuit alleges SPS and more than 49,000 students have been directly affected.
“The increase in suicides, suicide attempts, and mental health ER visits is not happening. As indicated in the complaint, this crisis has been growing before the pandemic and research has identified social media as a major role in causing mental health problems in young people,” a statement from Craick read.
The lawsuit alleges that from 2009 -2019, 30% of SPS students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for more than two weeks.
The lawsuit says the district was forced to divert resources, hire counselors, train teachers to recognize mental health issues, and plan lessons about the platform’s dangers.
“It’s increasingly clear that many children are burdened with mental health challenges. Our students – and young people everywhere – face unprecedented struggles, learning and living, compounded by the negative impact of increased screen time, unfiltered content, and the addictive nature of social media. We believe and hope that this lawsuit is the first step in reversing this trend for students, children in Washington state, and the entire country,” Superintendent Brent Jones said in a statement .
The lawsuit says SPS needs more school counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses to meet the high demand for services.
Lawyers say that while King County recently provided additional resources to school-based services, taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden for the social media company’s mental health crisis and that the lawsuit will hold the company accountable.
School Board President Brandon Hersey said in a statement, “Our first and foremost priority is the health and well-being of our students. Clearly, this includes the social and emotional harm they experience as a result of the negative impact of social media. By targeting social media companies, we are sending a message that It is clear that it is time to prioritize children’s health over advertising profits.
The lawsuit seeks the maximum damages allowed by law. KING 5 reached out to the company on the lawsuit and did not hear back.