Recent social media addiction lawsuits emphasize the harmful effects of social media on youth.
Platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Facebook are designed to hook teens and children, resulting in possible addiction. According to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), children and teenagers using social media for 3.5 hours daily have a doubled risk of mental health problems.
To find out more about social media addiction lawsuits, how to file a claim and more, read on.
Latest Updates In Social Media Addiction Lawsuits
The landscape of social media addiction lawsuits has been rapidly evolving. Here’s a timeline of key developments:
November 2023: Firms and attorneys sought leadership roles in the MDL, emphasizing the necessity of an organized approach to represent school districts and local governments against tech companies. Court documents revealed that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg shot down proposals to protect teenage mental health.
October 2023: More than 40 states initiated legal action against Meta over social media harm to children and teens.
March 2023: The instructing party directed the defendants to file any motions to dismiss by April, thereby establishing a critical juncture to test the core arguments against the social media companies.
February 2023: A pivotal moment arrived when the MDL judge approved a master complaint, consolidating the various allegations into a unified legal front.
July 2023: Signaling the growing involvement of public institutions, various school districts filed lawsuits, now transferred to the MDL, highlighting the widespread concern about social media’s impact on youth mental health.
January 2, 2023: The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated around 80 cases involving teen addiction to social media into a class action MDL in the Northern District of California.
October 2022: The JMPL initiated the transfer order, consolidating 28 cases from 17 different judicial districts into the MDL, a move typically preceding global settlement negotiations in mass tort cases.
There are over 448 active lawsuits, with the burden on plaintiffs to establish a causal relationship between social media use and mental health harm. Despite the complexity, evidence indicates a tangible psychological impact on teens. Legal outcomes are pending, but the implications could lead to pivotal changes in social media operations.
Why File a Social Media Lawsuit?
The growing evidence of the detrimental effects of social media platforms on teen mental health is leading to an increase in lawsuits against social media. If your child is suffering the negative effects of a social media addiction, you may be eligible to file a claim.
A significant factor driving these legal actions is the shift in social media usage among teens. A 2022 survey by Pew Research revealed that Instagram’s usage among teens saw an increase from 52 percent to 62 percent from 2014 to 2022.
Additionally, the survey noted that 67 percent of U.S. teens were using the short-video app TikTok, and a remarkable 95 percent were on YouTube as of 2022.
Legal actions criticize companies like Meta for not safeguarding young users despite knowing these risks. The lawsuits seek to hold these companies accountable, demanding changes for youth protection and transparency about associated risks.
How Social Media Targets Teens
Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, under Meta, use advanced algorithms to attract teenagers. These algorithms customize the content, often leading to unrealistic beauty standards and social comparison, affecting teens’ mental health. Particularly on Instagram, popular among teens, such tailored content can heighten issues like anxiety and depression.
Teenagers, due to their developing brains, are more susceptible to social media addiction. Platforms designed for constant engagement can disrupt adolescent brain development, exacerbating mental health issues like ADHD, depression, and body dysmorphia.
Leaked internal documents from Meta reveal the company’s knowledge of these negative effects, particularly on teenage girls’ body image and mental health.
The connection between Instagram and eating disorders, such as orthorexia nervosa, is clear, as the platform’s focus on aesthetics contributes to body image issues. The exploitative nature of these algorithms has led to legal action against Meta, highlighting the need to critically address the impact of social media on teen mental health.
Why Social Media Algorithms Are Dangerous
Facebook and Instagram, key players in social media, use advanced algorithms to target teenagers with highly customized content. These platforms, overseen by Meta, focus on maintaining teen engagement, often at the cost of their mental health. Here are several facts to be aware of:
Various sources substantiate that Facebook and Instagram algorithms target teenagers with content that may affect their mental health.
- Facebook’s Awareness of Instagram’s Impact: Internal reports from Facebook, obtained by The Wall Street Journal, revealed that since at least March 2020, officials at Facebook were aware that Instagram could make teenagers feel worse about their bodies.
- Social Media’s Harmful Effects on Teen Mental Health: Research from universities like Harvard and Northeastern University highlights the negative impacts of social media on mental health. Social media can encourage body image issues, anxiety, depression, and more.
- Critique of Instagram’s Approach and Business Model: People criticize Instagram for claiming its platform merely reflects users’ interests and experiences without manipulation. Experts argue that Instagram’s business model manipulates user behavior to boost engagement and increase screen time.
These findings highlight the complexity of social media’s impact on youth mental health and the need for a critical examination of the design and operation of platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
Teenage Vulnerability to Social Media
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), essential biological, psychological, and social growth occurs between ages 10 and 19—commonly known as adolescence. During this time, the adolescent brain becomes more sensitive to peer attention and social standing. This heightened sensitivity makes adolescents particularly vulnerable to the influences of social media, a platform they use more than any other age group.
Recent research indicates a strong link between social media use and decreased life satisfaction, particularly among younger adolescents. Girls aged 11 to 13 and boys aged 14 to 15 are most susceptible, with increased social media use correlating with reduced life satisfaction a year later. Different puberty timelines may account for this gender disparity. By age 19, both genders experience a renewed sensitivity to social media’s effects, marking late adolescence as another critical period.
Social media’s impact on adolescents varies throughout their teen years. It’s most evident in younger adolescents, significantly impacting life satisfaction more than in older age groups. This impact differs notably between genders, with teenage girls showing a stronger correlation between high social media use and lower life satisfaction.
The relationship between social media usage and adolescent well-being is complex, with younger adolescents displaying more linear associations and gender disparities. Understanding and addressing these effects is crucial, as they can influence the long-term mental health trajectory of young individuals. Recognizing the unique challenges in the social media landscape is essential in mitigating potential harm and fostering healthier developmental outcomes.
Am I Eligible to File a Social Media Addiction Lawsuit?
The increase in social media-related mental health issues among children and teens has led to a surge in litigation against companies like Meta, with families seeking damages for the adverse effects experienced by their young ones. If you’re considering legal action, understanding the eligibility criteria is crucial.
Criteria for Filing Social Media Addiction Lawsuits
Eligibility to file social media addiction lawsuits against companies typically includes:
- Age: The harm must have occurred to a child born after 2000.
- Evidence of harm: You have documented mental health issues in your child such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders or other outcomes.
- Link to social media use: There must be a clear link between the harm and excessive use of social media platforms.
The Impact and Response
Excessive social media use links to mental health effects, and critics accuse Meta of intentionally keeping a young user base despite being aware of the risks.
Specifically, they cite Instagram for its significant impact on body image and lifestyle comparison, contributing to mental health issues.
Legal Assistance and Compensation
Law firms such as Nadrich and Cohen have stepped in to assist families in holding these corporations accountable. Families filing a lawsuit may receive compensation to cover expenses such as medical care and therapy sessions. Attorneys typically offer legal representation on a contingency fee basis, meaning claimants incur no upfront costs.
Class Action and MDL
There is an ongoing industry-wide multidistrict litigation (MDL) encompassing over 80 cases against various social media platforms. If social media addiction has affected your child, you still have an opportunity to join this collective legal action.
Defendants in the Lawsuits
The defendants in these lawsuits include Meta (Instagram and Facebook), Snap (Snapchat), ByteDance (TikTok), and Google (YouTube).
The Mental Health Impacts of Social Media Addiction
Social media’s impact on mental health is multifaceted, with research indicating both positive and negative effects. For teens who are still forming their identities, social media can provide a sense of community and support. However, the negative impacts are significant and varied, often outweighing the potential benefits.
Three or more hours of social media use increases the risk for mental health problems among adolescents, including anxiety, depression, and poor sleep quality.
Social comparison and feedback-seeking, both linked to depressive symptoms, often drive the mechanism of harm.
Research has demonstrated that how people use social media is critical to its impact on their mental health. Passive use — viewing photos on someone else’s account without interacting, for example — can lead to declines in life satisfaction.
It isn’t healthy when youngsters compare themselves to others on social platforms. This can spur feelings of envy, leading to a cycle of depression and anxiety.
Body Image and Self-Esteem
Social media, especially platforms like Instagram focusing on body image, can reduce body satisfaction and self-esteem, particularly among young women. This dissatisfaction can manifest in harmful conditions such as eating disorders. About 88% of individuals engage in social comparison on Facebook. This behavior is linked to lower self-esteem, loneliness and depression.
Cyberbullying and Behavioral Risks
Social media platforms are also venues for cyberbullying, which can lead to severe psychological distress. According to a 2022 study from Pew Research, 46% of teens have experienced cyberbullying in some form.
Parents are the first line of defense against the dangers of social media. Depending on the age and behavior of your child, you may want to monitor their activity.
Accountability and Legal Action
Entities such as the Social Media Victims Law Center are working to hold platforms accountable for their impacts on younger audiences. They provide resources for families considering legal action against these companies for the harm inflicted on their children.
Tips to Protect Your Child From Social Media Harm
To guide your child in navigating social media responsibly practice the following tips:
- Educate them: Openly discuss social media challenges, such as social comparison pressures, cyberbullying and anxiety.
- Encourage in-person hobbies: Encouraging real-life socializing and physical activities is essential for developing social skills and emotional health.
- Be a role model: Demonstrate balanced social media usage, highlighting the importance of integrating online and offline experiences.
- Set Screen Time Limits: Set firm screen time guidelines to prevent excessive use and ensure it doesn’t disrupt sleep, studies, or family interactions.
- Use parental controls: Utilize parental controls to oversee usage and shield your child from unsuitable content.
Social Media Lawsuit Updates
New York City, its public hospital system and its schools announced that a lawsuit has been filed against the tech companies running Youtube, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, alleging that the "addictive and dangerous" platforms they run are fueling a mental health crisis in children which is draining resources and disrupting learning.
The lawsuit alleges that children are especially susceptible to being harmed by social media due to having brains which are not yet developed fully.
The lawsuit alleges that, because of social media platforms, the city's school district has needed to respond to disruptions outside of and inside the classroom, give students counseling for depression and anxiety, and develop lessons about how to stay safe on the internet and social media's effects.
The lawsuit alleges that teens are aware they spend too much time using social media but aren't able to stop.
Documents which were recently unredacted from a lawsuit filed by New Mexico against Meta demonstrate Meta’s “historical reluctance” to protect children on its social media platforms, according to the complaint. The attorney general for New Mexico sued Meta in December, alleging Meta didn’t protect young users from being exposed to child sex abuse material, allowing adults to solicit sexual imagery from them.
In passages from the lawsuit which were just unredacted, presentations and internal employee messages from 2020 and 2021 demonstrate Meta knew about issues like adult strangers contacting children on Instagram, dangers related to the platform’s “people you may know” feature which can recommend connections between children and adults, and that minors were being sexualized on the platform. However, the passages show that Meta delayed addressing these issues.
The complaint alleges that Meta reasoned it didn’t want to block relatives and parents from reaching out to younger relatives.
One excerpt from the lawsuit alleges that, in response to a question regarding what Meta was doing about child grooming, a Meta employee responded, “somewhere between zero and negligible. Child safety is an explicit non-goal this half.”
Meta, as well as other social media companies, have been ordered by a United States District Court judge to face claims that their negligence led to young people developing social media addiction and being harmed. The judge ruled that the platforms have certain features like image filters which can be treated like products. Parents had argued that the image filters can harm the mental health of young users via promotion of unrealistic standards of beauty. The judge ruled that the filters are not protected by the First Amendment because they're "neutral, non-expressive tools."
33 states have sued Meta Platforms Inc., alleging that the company's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, delivered a personal rejection of a policy his company proposed to remove image filters from their social media platforms, filters which are known to damage mental health. The lawsuit also alleges that Meta conducts unlawful collection of the personal data of children under the age of 13, falsely claims that their platforms are safe, and puts a priority on keeping children addicted to the platform via algorithms, infinite scrolling, constant alerts and other methods.
Senator Katie Britt has proposed legislation to protect children from social media. The proposed legislation, known as the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, seeks to prohibit children under the age of 13 from using social media and stop platforms from using algorithms to recommend content to minors. The legislation includes bipartisan co-sponsors.
Getting the Legal Help You Need
Should you or your child suffer harm from excessive social media usage, you may want to file a claim. Families take legal action against social media companies for psychological and emotional damages. Such lawsuits argue for compensation due to the adverse impacts of social media addiction. This trend reflects growing concerns about the potential effects of prolonged social media engagement.
Navigating the legal landscape can be daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. Our experienced legal team dedicates itself to assisting families affected by social media addiction. You can receive a comprehensive case evaluation at no cost. Contact us at (800) 718-4658 or fill out our contact form.