Schools Sue Social Media Apps TikTok, Instagram, for Mental Health Crisis Running Rampant

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Feb 03, 2024

Today, social media platforms are used by almost everyone on earth for communication, entertainment, commerce, and even breaking news.

However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the now-constant social media use is undoubtedly affecting people’s mental health. And new studies have shown it’s seriously impacting the next generation. One school district is even suing social media companies for what they’ve done to its students.

LPPS Is Suing Several Social Media Companies

The Livingston Parish Public School District is suing TikTok and Instagram for directly harming its 25,000 students.

Logo for the Livingston Parish Public Schools

Source: @Livingston Parish Public Schools/Facebook

The LPPS claims in the lawsuit that, “Social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, with design elements that intentionally keep children engaged for as long as possible — to the exclusion of all other activities — harm their users emotionally, developmentally, and physically.”

Companies Know But Ignore the Risks

LPPS explains in its lawsuit that these companies know that their sites cause depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and even suicide.

Young boy sitting in the dark looking at a smartphone

Source: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

But not only have they done nothing to deter kids from using the sites, they’ve actually created algorithms to keep them hooked.

There Is Significant Data to Support the LPPS’ Claims

Sadly, data collected by the The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory proves that LPPS’ claim that social media is directly harming children is absolutely true.

Two pre-teens sitting in bed while using their smartphones

Source: Natalie Behring/Getty Images

The Social Media and Youth Mental Health study explains, “there are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”

Why Does Social Media Affect Children More than Adults?

It’s important to understand that while there do seem to be residual effects of social media for adults, they are far more damaging for children and adolescents. 

Young girl holding a model brain on her desk

Source: Freepik

The Social Media and Youth Mental Health study said, “Frequent social media use may be associated with distinct changes in the developing brain in the amygdala (important for emotional learning and behavior) and the prefrontal cortex (important for impulse control, emotional regulation, and moderating social behavior), and could increase sensitivity to social rewards and punishments. As such, adolescents may experience heightened emotional sensitivity to the communicative and interactive nature of social media.”

The CDC Has Noted the “Heightened Emotional Sensitivity” Increase

Simultaneously, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted its own study on the general mental wellness of America’s students. And it certainly reported that children and adolescents today are struggling more than ever before.

Outside of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters

Source: James Leynse/Corbis/Getty Images

In the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survery, they noted, “Nearly all indicators of poor mental health and suicidal thoughts and behaviors increased from 2011 to 2021. The percentage of students who experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, seriously considered attempting suicide, made a suicide plan, and attempted suicide increased.”


Children Today Feel “Hopeless”

According to the CDC’s survey, 57% of adolescent females and 29% of males feel constant sadness or hopelessness.

Teen girl sitting on a bench, clearly upset

Source: Freepik

Tragically, the study also reported that, “In 2021, 42% of high school students felt so sad or hopeless almost every day.”


Children’s Screen Time Is Out of Control

The Social Media and Youth Mental Health also noted that 95% of youth aged 13-17 use social media, 40% of all children aged 12-18 are on one or more platforms, and at least a third of adolescents say they use it “almost constantly.”

In this photo illustration, an 11-year-old boy looks at the TikTok app on a smartphone screen

Source: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

And there is no doubt among experts that these two study results are directly correlated. As young people spend more time on social media, their mental health gets worse.


Social Media Makes It Far too Easy for Predators to Target Children

Additionally, the lawsuit notes that social media sites don’t do nearly enough to protect America’s children from predators.

Cyber criminal wearing a face mask and holding a smartphone

Source: Freepik

From catfishing, scams, and even verbal and physical abuse, children are extremely susceptible to dangerous cyber criminals. And the LPPS believes that it’s the responsibility of the platforms to improve their security measures.


What Changes Can Be Made?

The LPPS believes that social media sites need to make some serious changes to help protect America’s youth from depression, anxiety, suicide, and predators. 

Hand holding a phone open to TikTok/Instagram logo on a pink and orange background

Source: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/studioEast/Getty Images

Some say that forcing age verifications is the way forward, while others have recommended daily time limits for accounts of children under a certain age. But, so far, no social media platform has taken these suggestions. 


The School District Is Even Going After the Internet Provider

In addition to suing Instagram and TikTok for harming its students, the LPPS also has a suit against Spectrum Internet for allowing students to use the social media sites.

Spectrum Internet logo in blue and white

Source: Logos-World

And while LPPS is currently the only plaintiff against an internet provider, there are already more than 2,000 lawsuits in the United States alone against social media sites. 


More than 350,000 Lawsuits Are Expected in 2024

Companies like Meta, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, and Roblox may find themselves in trouble in the coming year.

Gavel on lawsuit paperwork

Source: Freepik

Experts expect that over 350,000 lawsuits against one of more of these companies will be filed in 2024. And many hope that these lawsuits will ignite real and lasting change to social media and how it affects today’s youth.