NJ school district sues social media for preying on students
📱 The School District of the Chathams is suing major social media platforms
📱 Suit claims social media giants prey on children causing mental health problems
📱 Social Media companies defend their use by children
A New Jersey school district is suing the major social media platforms claiming the use among young people is causing "severe mental harm."
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Google, and YouTube are all named in the federal lawsuit brought by The School District of the Chathams.
The suit was filed just weeks after 14-year-old Adrianna Kuch died by suicide after she was attacked by a group of girls at Central Regional High School and the incident was posted on social media.
Lawyers for the Morris County district are monetary damages and corporate policy changes. The suit claims social media platforms prey on young people to keep them on-line and engaged, but not always in healthy ways.
School officials say they have seen increases increases in depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide among students going back at least eight years.
A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics warned of the dangers of social media exposure for children as early as 2011, and mental health experts say the problems have only gotten worse.
Study authors wrote at the time, "Using social media becomes a risk to adolescents more often than most adults realize. Most risks fall into the following categories: peer-to-peer; inappropriate content; lack of understanding of online privacy issues; and outside influences of third-party advertising groups."
The study even warned of so-called "Facebook Depression," which "develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites."
"Preadolescents and adolescents who suffer from Facebook depression," the study warns, "Are at risk for social isolation and sometimes turn to risky Internet sites and blogs for “help” that may promote substance abuse, unsafe sexual practices, or aggressive or self-destructive behaviors."
School officials in Chatham say that is exactly what they are seeing, and are having to provide a wide array of mental health counseling as a result.
That care, they say, does not come cheap. The suit seeks reimbursement for the outside specialists the district has had to hire to care for students.
First reported by NJ.com, the response to the lawsuit from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Google was defensive. All of the platforms pointed to safeguards and policies they claim are in place to keep kids safe and block undesirable content.
The lawyer for the school district told NJ Advance Media they look forward to their day in court, "We think it’s a righteous case."
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