A new lawsuit alleges that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube intentionally target teens with addictive algorithms and knowingly expose teens and pre-teens to harmful health effects that come from using their platforms. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the plaintiff, Miami Dade Public Schools, the third largest school district in the country. The complaint filed is 135 pages and refers to dozens of studies and/or cases relating to a child mental health crisis that the plaintiff alleges has been caused, in part, by rampant social media use. 

The firm Robbins, Geller, Rudman, and Dowd LLP allege that the platforms have violated the Florida nuisance law, Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA), and also the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The lawsuit requests that the platforms to “abate the public nuisance” and to “deter and/or prevent the resumption of such nuisance.” The suit is seeking “equitable relief to fund prevention education and treatment for excessive and problematic use of social media.” Lastly, the plaintiffs request actual and compensatory damages, statutory damages, punitive damages, and reasonable attorney fees/costs. 

The complaint states, “Social media use is linked to increases in mental, emotional, developmental, and behavioral disorders. They include cyberbullying, eating disorders, cutting, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, vandalism, violence, and suicide-related outcomes. These negative impacts have been demonstrated by both independent research and internal data from the social media platforms themselves.”

The lawsuit further explains a large bulk of the harm and depression caused to children stems from kids making negative and unhealthy social comparisons to their peers. Young girls are more likely to develop eating disorders as they spend more time on social media platforms, especially Instagram and Snapchat. 

The suit also details two different TikTok challenges. The “Devious Lick” challenge dared students to steal and vandalize schools. This challenge has led to the arrest of students across the country and caused TikTok to remove videos with the hashtag. TikTok users modified the hashtag to continue the trend. 

A more concerning TikTok challenge the suit refers to is the “Skull Breaker” challenge. The challenge was for one student to ask another to jump high off the ground. After the student does this, the “prank” is to kick the legs out from under the person. This causes the person to fall backwards, causing the head to hit the ground. The suit refers to one girl in the school district who had to visit the hospital for injuries sustained. The other students posted the humiliation video to TikTok. There are reports of death from this challenge and several other TikTok challenges that went viral over the past five years. 

The suit also includes several alarming statistics to raise concern about the health and well-being of children in today’s society. The number of middle and high school children who have considered or attempted suicide has grown to 22%, an 11% increase from 2011. Alarmingly, 18% of the 22% went so far as to create a suicide plan. In 2017, 7.5% of Miami Dade County students had attempted suicide, according to a risk management survey conducted by the Florida Department of Health.

According to the same survey, 2.4% of high school students said they had carried a weapon on school property. 7.1% reported that they had been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property. The lawsuit also mentions 31 students within the school district died of suicide between 2019 and 2022, including some as young as 10 and 11 years old. 

Between 2007 and 2016, ER visits for children (5-17) increased by 117% for anxiety disorders, 44% for mood disorders, and 40% for attention disorders. In 2020, over 3.1 million kids aged 12-17 sought mental health services in an education setting. Only 41% of middle schoolers and 36% of high schoolers were satisfied with the services provided. The lawsuit complaint paints the picture of a mental health crisis in schools. As a result of the increased mental health concerns in school-aged children, schools are struggling to provide the mental health services these kids need. 

After establishing a connection between poor mental health in school children and social media use, the complaint details how social media platforms use complex algorithms to cause addiction. The lawsuit states, “Defendants view young, and even preadolescent, users as one of their most valuable commodities as an audience for their advertisements. Young users are central to Defendants’ business model and advertising revenue as children are more likely than adults to use social media. Indeed, 95% of children aged 13 to 17 have cell phones, 90% use social media, and 28% buy products and services through social media.”

“In the name of profit, Defendants have progressively modified their platforms in ways that promote excessive and problematic use and have done so in ways known to be harmful to children.” The complaint talks about algorithms as tools for making a profit and that social media platforms copy designs and features of other platforms to increase the addictive quality. The algorithms are designed to increase dopamine spikes and cause users to spend more time on the platforms. 

The plaintiffs and law firm have made compelling arguments about the negative effects social media is having on children. They also make several points regarding the business model of the social media platforms; it is intended to target children and get them addicted to the curated content feeds. This lawsuit is still in its early stages.

The summons has been received by the Defendants and they have until November 9 to file a response. 

Updated

Steven Middendorp

Steven Middendorp is an investigative journalist, musician, and teacher. He has been a freelance writer and journalist for over 20 years. More recently, he has focused on issues dealing with corruption and negligence in the judicial system. He is a homesteading hobby farmer who encourages people to grow their own food, eat locally, and care for the land that provides sustenance to the community.

Other Headlines

Coronavirus

Investigation Reveals Dangerous Bat Studies at CSU

The White Coat Waste Project uncovered 22 wasteful, dangerous bat studies funded by tax dollars and conducted in Colorado with ties to EcoHealth Alliance.  More details regarding Colorado State University’s (CSU) dangerous virus experiments on bats have been uncovered. The White Coat Waste Project (WCWP) revealed the details of 22 experiments. The experiments include Sars, CoV, Mers, Cedar, Nipah, and Sosuga viruses.  TheContinue reading Investigation Reveals Dangerous Bat Studies at CSU

More news about Coronavirus

Health & Nutrition

Study Shows 98% Of Children Grow Out of Gender Confusion by Adulthood

A new study concludes that 98% of gender-confused children grow out of it and will become comfortable with the gender that corresponds to their birth sex by the time they reach adulthood. The age with the highest rate of gender confusion is the age of 11, which is just before the typical onset of puberty.  TheContinue reading Study Shows 98% Of Children Grow Out of Gender Confusion by Adulthood

More news about Health & Nutrition

Vaccines

AstraZeneca Faces Landmark Lawsuit for COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Injury

A lawsuit, likely the first one of its kind, was brought against AstraZeneca for breach of contract for failing to pay the medical bills for the plaintiff injured in the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial. Brianne Dressen was officially diagnosed with “Post Vaccine Neuropathy” by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She has had substantial, debilitating injuries from her participation in the clinicalContinue reading AstraZeneca Faces Landmark Lawsuit for COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Injury

More news about Vaccines

Science & Tech

USDA Reopens Comment Period for Deregulation of Gene-Edited Plants

The deregulation of gene-edited plants is on the USDA agenda, and the public comment period has been extended by 21 days. The comment page has yet to be posted on the Federal Register. CRISPR is a new technology that is being used in agriculture to modify plants. “New Gene Technologies” or NGTs are how big agricultural companies like Bayer areContinue reading USDA Reopens Comment Period for Deregulation of Gene-Edited Plants

More news about Science & Tech

Environment

NYC Turns to Psychological Manipulation to Reduce Meat Consumption

New York has introduced a Plant Powered Carbon Challenge, a voluntary program for the private sector to encourage meat consumption reduction in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions. The city has partnered with organizations, including the World Resources Institute (WRI), which provided the first document within the list of resources.  The WRI receives funding from the Bill andContinue reading NYC Turns to Psychological Manipulation to Reduce Meat Consumption

More news about Environment

Policy

Boy Scouts of America Rebrands for Inclusivity: Introducing ‘Scouting America’

The Boy Scouts of America have announced they will change their name to Scouting America beginning in February 2025. The announcement has been described as a new inclusive name that is welcoming to everyone who may want to join. Last September, a Netflix documentary, “Scouts Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America,” detailedContinue reading Boy Scouts of America Rebrands for Inclusivity: Introducing ‘Scouting America’

More news about Policy