School districts are suing social media companies over students’ mental health concerns

School districts are suing social media companies like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, saying the platforms contribute to the teen mental health crisis.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 3:49 PM EDT
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PHOENIX (KPHO/Gray News) - Some school districts in Arizona are suing social media companies on behalf of their students’ mental health.

KPHO spoke with 18-year-old Riana Alexander, a student who is advocating for mental health for reasons that are very personal to her.

She said she felt isolated in high school and she believes social media contributed to her anxiety and depression.

“When you are struggling, and you see everyone having these really happy lives and everything, it doesn’t really help,” she said.

The effects of social media on mental health is an issue schools across the country are facing. Districts are saying social media companies should be held accountable for the mental health crisis among teens.

Hundreds of school districts across the country, including at least 10 in Arizona, are suing tech giants like Snapchat, Meta, TikTok and YouTube.

Attorney Joseph Tann represents six Arizona school districts, including Mesa Public Schools, the largest district in the state.

“It would be irresponsible to not look at social media as one of the number one threats,” he said.

Tann claims the platforms are knowingly targeting and exploiting kids.

“As time has gone on, the algorithm, specifically, has gotten stronger and stronger. It caused more harmful, sensational content that directly leads to students missing class, to anxiety and depression, and an overall diminished environment to learn in,” he said.

Tann said the complaints are not about shutting down the social media apps. Instead, the schools are asking for better protections for teens and more money for districts to address the issue.

“We are thinking that these companies who have profited billions, billions of dollars, should be responsible for contributing to the solution, not just the harm,” Tann said.

Social media companies have responded by filing a motion to dismiss the complaints under the First Amendment and Section 230, an internet law that prevents tech companies from being held liable for what is posted on their platforms.

Alexander just graduated from Chandler High School and is now in a much better place. She said part of her healing process was in disconnecting from the apps and reconnecting with her friends and family.

“What really helped me was getting back outside, getting back to talking with my friends, getting a sense of purpose, and you get that from community,” she said.