Children facing life-threatening mental health crisis due to Instagram addiction, lawsuit filed by Motley Rice alleges

An addiction to Instagram caused a young Virginia woman to attempt to take her life three times as a child, a lawsuit filed by Motley Rice LLC alleges. Filed in California’s Superior Court against Instagram and Meta Platforms, the case is one of multiple filed by the firm for victims who allege social media companies exploited the insecurities of children to maximize profits and user growth. 

Plaintiff Laura Ashman, 21, began using Instagram when she was roughly 12 years old, according to the lawsuit, which also alleges she quickly grew addicted, scrolling the social media site for up to 10 hours a day. Once a straight-A student, Laura fell behind to the point of barely passing her classes. Laura’s addictive use of Instagram eroded her self-esteem and caused her to develop a severe eating disorder and depression, she alleges. Sadly, she also began to self-harm. She attempted to take her life for the first time as a freshman in high school, requiring a stay at a mental health treatment facility for emergency intervention. 

“We are so proud of Laura for finding the courage to tell her story of the dark side of social media, self-harm and depression,” said Laura’s father, Scott Ashman. “We are forever grateful for the efforts and vigilance of the school system, county, Inova and family who helped guide her to where she is today.  We applaud our daughter for recognizing that not all are afforded the same safety net and that many suffer in silence. We as a family hope Laura's voice will help upset the status quo and bring further awareness to depression and meaningful change to social media's cold grip on our children.” 

The complaint alleges, Instagram created a mental health crisis through its use of algorithms that were designed to addict children and teens to the product. Documents revealed by a whistleblower indicate that the defendants have known for years that Instagram has a toxic effect on the mental health of children, and in particular teen girls, the complaint states. Instead of addressing the issue or warning consumers of the potential harm, Instagram downplayed and ignored internal and external research on the safety risks, in order to boost user growth, the complaint alleges. 

“We believe Meta has known for years that the Instagram algorithm addicts children and leads many down a dark spiral of body dysmorphia and depression. Hopefully, this lawsuit can begin to right the wrongs we believe the defendants caused,” stated attorney Previn Warren.

The company also gave misleading statements in marketing materials and when testifying before Congress, the lawsuit claims. Causes of action include product liability, failure to warn, negligence, infliction of emotional distress and concealment. California-based law firm Wagstaffe, von Loewenfeldt, Busch & Radwick co-counsels with Motley Rice on the case. 

Read the full complaint.

About Motley Rice

Motley Rice LLC is one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ litigation firms. With a tradition of representing those whose rights have been violated, Motley Rice attorneys gained recognition for their pioneering asbestos lawsuits, their work with the State Attorneys General in the landmark litigation against Big Tobacco, and their representation of 9/11 families in the ongoing lawsuit against terrorist financiers. 

The firm continues to handle complex litigation in numerous areas, including securities fraud; antitrust; consumer protection; mesothelioma; environmental contamination; prescription and over-the-counter drugs; medical devices; human rights; aviation disasters; and wrongful death. Motley Rice is headquartered in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., and has additional offices in Connecticut; Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; New York; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; and West Virginia. For more information, contact Motley Rice attorney Previn Warren (DC) at 1.800.768.4026 or visit Motley Rice LLC, a South Carolina Limited Liability Company, is engaged in the New Jersey practice of law through Motley Rice New Jersey LLC. Esther Berezofsky is the attorney responsible for New Jersey practice. 

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