ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Greece Central School District and Hilton Central School District will join hundreds of others around the country in a consolidated lawsuit against social media companies aimed at holding them responsible for student struggles with mental health.
According to the school district, the lawsuits are on behalf of kids and teens who become addicted to social media and then suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, body dysmorphia, and suicidal ideation.
The district accuses these companies of having addictive tactics to increase usage of their platforms, changing the algorithms of their platforms to collect teens’s data, and adding features to stop parents from monitoring and limiting their children’s use of social media.
The GCSD Board of Education voted to join the lawsuit Tuesday night.
“We will not sit by and allow companies to put profits before student safety and emotional wellness,” GCSD Board President Sean McCabe said in a statement issued after the vote. “We teach our students to speak up when they see wrongdoing, and tonight, we are following that example.”
In that same statement, the district said in part:
“Before the vote, Deputy Superintendent Jeremy Smalline explained that for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends. Promoting these products to minors also exposes them to violent and sexually explicit content, and contributes to increases in low self-esteem, bullying, eating disorders, anxiety, and depression.”
The district said it hired dozens of mental health professionals and launched new educational programs to help students learn to regulate their use of social media.
According to the district, it will not be charged legal fees for participating in the lawsuit unless a monetary judgment is awarded. The district said it was awarded $250,000 in a similar lawsuit against vaping manufacturer Juul Labs earlier this year, and uses that money to fund vaping prevention and intervention programs.
Last week, the Hilton Central School district also voted to join the lawsuit. The districts claim these companies directly manipulate their algorithms which then make kids feel worse.
They also say it’s making it harder for kids to get off their phones. The U.S. Surgeon General says 95 percent of kids ages 13 to 17 use social media “constantly.”