A young girl stares at her phone in the dark, looking sad.

Seattle Public Schools, the largest K-12 system in Washington state with over 49,000 students and 106 schools, has filed a lawsuit against TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. 

They’re the first school district in the country to take the social media giants head-on, for a suggested incitement of mental health crises on its platforms. Filing the lawsuit on Jan. 6, the school district seeks to hold the social media conglomerates responsible for worsening student mental health and inciting cyberbullying, with the hopes that the U.S. District Court in Seattle will uphold the “maximum statutory and civil penalties permitted by law.” 

A survey included in the lawsuit illustrates that there was a 30% increase, from 2009 to 2019, in students who were feeling “so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that [they] stopped doing some usual activities.” The suit also proclaims that “This mental health crisis is no accident. It is the result of the Defendants’ deliberate choices and affirmative actions to design and market their social media platforms to attract youth.” 

The lawsuit comes following a wave to ban TikTok and other social media platforms, particularly amongst the nation’s youth, for issues concerning privacy, internet addiction, and overall negative effect on mental health. In 2021, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen shared that the makers behind Meta knew that apps like Instagram were negatively affecting teenagers, especially in regard to body image, but chose to prioritize profit over protection. Consolidating the many concerns Seattle Public Schools makes in its lawsuit. 

Through their case, Seattle Public Schools hopes that some form of accountability will be reached alongside a push to implement appropriate resources within schools, like counseling services, to help students. 

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