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Maryland school district sues social media companies, alleges their platforms are contributing to mental health crisis


Daily Caller News Foundation

A Maryland school district is suing several social media companies alleging that the platforms are designed to be addictive and are contributing to the student mental health crisis.

Prince George County Public Schools filed a lawsuit on Monday against the social media companies that run Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, alleging that the platforms have contributed to a decline in student mental health, citing a rise in eating disorders, depression and suicidal thoughts among kids. The school district, one of the largest in the nation, joins several school systems in California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida who are suing the companies for allegedly creating an addictive platform.

“American children are suffering an unprecedented mental health crisis fueled by Defendants’ addictive and dangerous social media products,” the lawsuit alleged. “In the past decade, Americans’ engagement with social media grew exponentially, nowhere more dramatically than among our country’s youth. That explosion in usage is no accident. It is the result of Defendants’ studied efforts to induce young people to compulsively use their products—Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube. And Defendants have grown not just their user bases, but the frequency with which users use their platforms and the time each user spends on their platforms.”

Children’s brains are not fully developed making them “uniquely susceptible to addictive features in digital products and highly vulnerable to the consequent harms,” the lawsuit alleged. The companies have allegedly designed the code of their apps to “manipulate dopamine release in children’s developing brains,” making them addictive, according to the lawsuit.

When kids are addicted, the social media apps allegedly promote “disconnection, disassociation and a legion of resulting mental and physical harms,” the lawsuit stated.

“We’ve developed more than 30 tools to support teens and their families, including tools that allow parents to decide when, and for how long, their teens use Instagram, age verification technology, automatically setting accounts belonging to those under 16 to private when they join Instagram, and sending notifications encouraging teens to take regular breaks,” Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, told WTOP News, a Maryland-based outlet. “We’ve invested in technology that finds and removes content related to suicide, self-injury or eating disorders before anyone reports it to us. These are complex issues, but we will continue working with parents, experts and regulators such as the state attorneys general to develop new tools, features and policies that meet the needs of teens and their families.”

Prince County Public Schools, TikTok owner Byte Dance Inc. and Snap Inc. did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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