Seattle’s public school district is suing some of the biggest social media companies, demanding the platforms pay up for poisoning kids’ brains and making it harder to teach.
The lawsuit filed Friday by Seattle Public Schools against companies behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat and YouTube is seeking compensatory damages to expand the district’s mental health resources.
The school district argues the apps worsen a growing youth mental health crisis — interfering with teachers’ ability to do their jobs and providing grounds for the suit.
“Defendants have successfully exploited the vulnerable brains of youth, hooking tens of millions of students across the country into positive feedback loops of excessive use and abuse of Defendants’ social media platforms,” the lawsuit said.
In a statement Saturday, Seattle Public Schools lamented students “are struggling with anxiety, depression, thoughts of self-harm, and suicidal ideation.”
“This crisis was already growing before the pandemic and research has identified social media as playing a major role in causing mental health problems in youth,” the school said, asserting more than 90% of U.S youth are on social media.
“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 school district said almost 50% of students report spending one to three hours a day on social media in Washington state — and that 30% say they spend three or more hours on the apps.
“Our students – and young people everywhere – face unprecedented, learning and life struggles that are amplified by the negative impacts of increased screen time, unfiltered content, and potentially addictive properties of social media,” Superintendent Brent Jones said in a statement
The district alleges social media-caused mental health issues are overwhelming school counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses and straining its limited resources.
“Taxpayers should not bear the burden for the mental health crisis social media companies have created,” the district said.
Seattle is a tech hub, home to both Microsoft and Amazon — neither of which are plaintiffs. Meta, Snapchat and Google, which owns YouTube, have offices in Seattle, and some of the parents in the district are likely employees of companies being sued.