Florida school district sues social media platforms, says they ‘put profits over children’s mental health’

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – A Central Florida school district is suing several social media companies, accusing them of creating a mental health crisis in children that the district now has to spend money to handle.

The Lake County School Board is suing the parent companies of Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, TikTok, Google and YouTube in federal court, accusing the companies of negligence, and intentional and reckless conduct.

The suit accuses the companies of knowing how their technology can be addictive but doing nothing to tamp down on how young people use their platforms. In fact, they accuse the companies of purposely exploiting that addictiveness for profit.

“America’s children are the social-media generation. Defendants recognized that, if they hook children, they will have them (on) their platforms for life. For example, Instagram’s marketing strategy document clarifies, ‘If we lose the teen foothold in the U.S., we lose the pipeline,’” the school board’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit filed this week.

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The lawsuit says that because the companies exploited “children’s still-developing brains,” they have contributed to the country’s continuing mental health crisis, citing the U.S. Surgeon General’s advisory on how social media impact children’s mental health in 2023.

According to the lawsuit, the rate of children struggling with mental health issues parallels the rise in the amount of time they spend on social media platforms. The school district says it’s had to spend money on mental health services and other programs to help students and educate families about mental health and wellbeing, and it wants to recoup those funds.

According to Education Week, more than 200 school districts around the country are suing social media companies because of the mental health crisis.

In addition to that, state and federal governments have been looking at ways to restrict social media use for children under the age of 16.

In Florida, a bill is going through the state Legislature that would ban children from having accounts on many of the most popular social media platforms.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has some concerns, however, that the bill could be shot down in court over First Amendment violations.

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