Greece’s Central School District has joined a nationwide litigation alleging that social media apps are responsible for student mental health and discipline problems that divert education resources.
Hundreds of school districts have signed on to a federal lawsuit seeking accountability from the parent companies of Facebook and Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube.
School districts say their educators are wasting time that could be spent teaching implementing policies to limit social media use and counseling students whose app addiction has led to anxiety, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.
Further complicating matters, the lawsuit says, is that social media giants use addictive and unethical psychological tactics to lure young people to their products.
“They are well aware of the impact that this is having, and it has not changed any of their behaviors,” Greek Deputy Superintendent Jeremy Smalline said Tuesday of social media companies during a presentation to the Board of Education. litigation education.
“As a result, our students are becoming addicted to social media and what’s really scary is that it’s pushing them toward a mental health crisis,” Smalline said.
The board voted 5-2 to join the lawsuit. The board chairman said in an interview that opposition members felt the litigation distracted parents from their responsibility to monitor social media use.
Joining the litigation costs school districts nothing unless damages are awarded, according to the district.
Greece took a similar approach last year when it joined other countries in lawsuits targeting Juul, claiming the e-cigarette maker was a “public nuisance.” The dispute was ultimately settled for $1 billion and Greece received $250,000.
Seattle Public Schools broke new ground in January when the district became the first to sue social media tech giants. under the argument of “public nuisance”.
That litigation snowballed, and similar suits were consolidated in U.S. District Court in California, where the companies are based.
In their motion to dismiss the complaints, filed in June, the companies argued that they were protected by the federal Internet Liability Protection Act known as Section 230. That law, passed by Congress in 1996 , states that Internet companies are generally not liable. for third-party content on their sites.
In May, the US surgeon general has warned that a growing body of research suggests social media has a detrimental effect on adolescentsand urged policymakers and tech companies to raise their standards towards young people.
“There are numerous indicators that social media may also pose a significant risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents,” Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy wrote in his opinion.
His opinion highlighted the potential benefits of social media, such as helping young people find community. But he also warns that the developing brains of children and adolescents make them vulnerable to the influences of technology.
He cited a 2022 Pew Research Center survey that found 95% of teens are on social media and more than a third of them use one “almost constantly.”
“We are in the midst of a national youth mental health crisis, and I fear that social media is a significant driver of this crisis – a crisis that we urgently need to address,” Murthy wrote.
Christine Baker, Greece Central School District’s director of student services and school improvement, said the effects of this crisis are being felt daily in the district’s classrooms.
They surface in the form of altercations between students, behavioral problems, bullying, and self-loathing. Solving them, she said, strains the time and resources of school administrative and mental health staff.
Greece has taken steps to eliminate the use of social media in schools. Last year, district began requiring middle and high school students to store their phones during school hours in tiny poucheswhose magnetized locks are only accessible in designated areas of schools.
The district also recently rolled out a program designed to encourage responsible use of social media outside of the classroom.
Baker acknowledges, however, that such policies have their limits, in part because the young people they are meant to protect always seem to be one step ahead of the adults who implement these policies.
“Really, the kids teach us,” Baker said. “. . . We just don’t know everything (about the technology and its effects), and what’s more, it’s constantly evolving.”