Public Schools Sue Tech Giants for Youth Mental Health Crisis
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Public Schools Sue Tech Giants for Youth Mental Health Crisis

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Antonio Gozain By Antonio Gozain | Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst - Mon, 01/09/2023 - 12:21

Seattle’s public school district filed a lawsuit against Alphabet, Meta Platforms, Snap Inc and TikTok-owner ByteDance with the US District Court, claiming that the tech companies were responsible for a worsening mental health crisis among students, which affected the schools’ ability to carry out their educational mission.

The complaint claims that these Big Tech companies purposefully designed their products to hook young people to their platforms, creating a mental health crisis. “This mental health crisis is no accident. It is the result of the Defendants’ deliberate choices and affirmative actions to design and market their social media platforms to attract youth," the lawsuit states.

Meta, the company that owns Facebook, said in a statement that the firm wants teens to be safe online and explained that it has developed over 30 tools to support teens and families, including supervision tools for parents to limit the amount of time their teens spend on Instagram and age verification technology.

On the other hand, Google stated that it has “invested heavily in creating safe experiences for children across our platforms,” introducing protections and features to prioritize user wellbeing. "For example, through Family Link, we provide parents with the ability to set reminders, limit screen time and block specific types of content on supervised devices," said José Castañeda, Spokesman, Google.

While TikTok did not issue any statement and did not respond to several media outlets’ requests for comment, in the past the company has said it aims to create an enjoyable experience for users and exclude harmful content, investing in moderation and content controls.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for monetary damages and other penalties, arguing that students with mental health issues perform worse, causing schools to create additional resources to warn students about social media dangers, hire trained personnel and train teachers to identify and address such symptoms. "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," reads the lawsuit.

In Mexico, the highest incidence of social media use is observed among those between 16 and 24 years of age, according to the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT). These ages are crucial for emotional and psychosocial development.

While there has been no legal action against social media platforms on mental health issues in Mexico, TikTok recently faced legal problems after a federal judge denied the petition of the company to stop an investigation procedure initiated by INAI. The investigation aims to validate regulation on personal data and the Chinese-owned company’s management of it.

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