As reported by the Financial Times, the alarming rise in depression among children has been linked to social media use, and Big Tech may soon face a reckoning as a result. The recent tragic death of a UK teen adds to the growing body of evidence pointing to the negative impact of social media on children’s mental health.
Lieff Cabraser represents numerous teens in multidistrict product liability litigation filed in the US against major social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube. One such teen client, whose story is related in the FT article, became addicted to Instagram at just nine years old and was exposed to harmful images and videos, eventually requiring residential care for anorexia. Despite her ongoing recovery, harmful content still presents high risks on her inescapable social media platforms.
The plaintiffs in the US lawsuits allege that social media companies knowingly damage children’s mental health and work to suppress this information. They claim that these companies have borrowed from the tobacco and gambling industries, using behavioral and neurobiological techniques to get children addicted to their products. Features like endless feeds, intermittent variable rewards, and inadequate age verification protocols contribute to this addiction.
Internal studies by Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, revealed that approximately 500,000 Instagram accounts involved inappropriate interactions with children daily. Despite this, child safety has not been prioritized. Critics argue that only age restrictions backed by effective verification will protect children, while some even suggest banning social media accounts for those under 16 altogether.
As Big Tech faces increasing scrutiny and the potential for more regulation, it’s clear that the stakes are high for these companies. Their ad-driven business models rely on captivating young audiences, but they must address the growing concern over their products’ impact on children’s mental health. Otherwise, they may face a reckoning in the form of stricter regulations and legal liabilities.
To learn more about Lieff Cabraser’s lawsuit on behalf of teens and their families, click here.
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