School districts all over the country are filing lawsuits, saying that social media companies are to blame for America’s youth mental health crisis, which is getting worse quickly, and that they should be held responsible. Last week, San Mateo County in northern California’s Silicon Valley filed a 107-page complaint in federal court, asserting that more youngsters than ever are experiencing mental health issues as a result of their excessive usage of digital platforms. The complaint is based on recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show that more and more high school students in the U.S. are showing signs of depression and having thoughts of killing themselves. In his recent State of the Union speech, President Biden said that social media companies use our children to make money. These platforms have put a lot of thought into making sure teens are safe and have put in place ways to keep underage users safe, like age-restricted features, parental controls, and professional resources.
Meta, which owns Instagram, provides age verification technology, reminders to take frequent breaks, and features that enable parents to set limits on how long their child spends on Instagram. Snapchat curates content from established producers and publishers, using human moderation to assess user created material before it reaches a wide audience. Research reveals that social media companies use the same neural circuitry as gambling and recreational drugs to encourage customers to utilize their products as much as possible. On Tuesday, Bucks County officials filed a lawsuit against social media corporations, alleging that algorithms that encourage youth to “keep looking, keep focused, and keep scrolling” have an adverse effect on children’s mental health. The 109-page lawsuit shows how mental health problems are getting worse and says that these problems have “progressed in lockstep with the growth of social media platforms intentionally designed to attract and addict youth to these platforms by amplifying harmful content, giving users dopamine hits, and ultimately driving youth engagement and advertising revenue.” In northern New Jersey, the School District of the Chathams has set aside resources to help kids who are struggling with anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
Irvington Public Schools filed a similar case, and Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, believes parents, coaches, and others need to become better at talking to adolescents about the advantages and potential hazards associated with social media use. Marisol Garcia, a staff therapist at Northwestern University’s Family Center, thinks legal action may be beneficial but is uncertain about its long-term effects.
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