PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon’s Experts warn that kids and teens face a mental health problem, so more school districts are taking on social media companies.
At least three local school districts have now filed lawsuits, saying that social media companies care more about making money than ensuring students are safe.
In March, the Gervais School District sued platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Google, and YouTube on behalf of their children. Since then, the Washougal and Salem-Keizer school systems have also filed lawsuits that are very similar to the first one.
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The lawsuit says that the social media companies “successfully exploited the vulnerable brains of youth, hooking tens of millions of students across the country into positive feedback loops of excessive use and abuse of defendants’ social media platforms…Worse, the content they choose for youth and send to them is often dangerous and shady.”
“Young people are spending a lot of time indoors on their electronics rather than exploring,” said Dr. Mary Loeb, a Kaiser Permanente Northwest Physician. “I think one of the things to think about is trying to get those things out of the bedroom and having curfews for electronics.”
In 2021, the CDC surveyed 17,000 U.S. high school students and found that 42% of them felt sad and lost most of the time. This number was even higher for female and LGBTQ students.
The CDC also found that 22% of students considered trying to kill themselves. From 2011 to 2021, more teens thought about, planned, and tried to end their lives.
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“Being a teen is tough by itself, but certain populations have higher rates of depression,” Dr. Loeb said. “Like if you’re in a sexual minority, or racial minority, that really ups the ante in terms of depression and suicidality.”
And the number of lawsuits keeps increasing because people are saying that the techniques and algorithms used by social media sites are worsening the mental health problem among young people.
A representative for Portland Public Schools told Koin 6 district is strongly against companies that try to make the most money at the cost of students’ mental health. They also confirmed that they plan to sue several social media sites.
Experts like Dr. Loeb say that adults and parents should watch for signs of trouble in teens.
“Everybody gets sad at some point, but if your teen expresses hopelessness or helplessness, and talks about not being around…if they’re giving away some prized possessions, those sorts of things are really big red flags,” Dr. Loeb said. “And you need to get help right away.”
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