Consumer Fraud Protection | Technology & Media

Instagram and Youth Harm

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Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, has told the world that of the 20,000 pages of internal documents she leaked from her former employer, “the most shocking disclosure was the extent to which Facebook knew its products, Instagram in particular, were harming our children and chose to do nothing about it.”

Vulnerable children have drastically increased the amount they use social media over the past decade. Unfortunately, the rates of self- harm within this same population have also gone up with such use. These rising rates of self-harm, suicidal ideation and eating disorders, even in children as young as 10, have been alleged to be directly related to the harms Facebook (now Meta) knew about. While the true cost of social media addiction is only just beginning to take shape, recent studies have shown that insidious attacks on the mental health of children are all too commonplace across numerous social platforms.

Some now allege that this largely unregulated industry treats the wellbeing of innocent children and teens as collateral damage in the race for user growth and profits. Meta denies the allegations raised by Haugen and that its social media platforms are harmful to users.

Our attorneys are reviewing these accusations to help support impacted families in their search for answers. If you or your family are struggling with the dangerous effects of social media, you are not alone.

Previn Warren appointed to co-lead national social media youth harm MDL

Nov. 21, 2022

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers appointed Motley Rice member attorney Previn Warren as co-lead counsel for national litigation concerning claims that defective social media products have caused children to become addicted, leading to severe mental health challenges including anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Read more about this appointment.

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Motley Rice is reviewing allegations that multiple social media platforms, including Instagram and Snapchat, intentionally and deliberately designed their social media platforms without regard to the safety of our children. Specifically, Motley Rice is reviewing allegations that Instagram and Snapchat’s respective parent companies Facebook Inc. (Meta Platforms, Inc. since 10/28/2021) and Snap Inc.: 

  • Created algorithms designed to addict children and lead them to increasingly provocative images that often promote eating disorders, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, suicide attempts and suicide
  • Marketed themselves as safe for children over 14, while knowing that their software programs were particularly dangerous to adolescent and teenage girls
  • Failed to warn parents or social media users of the known negative health effects associated with use of their platforms
  • Failed to verify the ages of users, allowing many children under 13 to access their platforms based simply on their self-reported birthday

If you or your child attempted or died by suicide, was treated due to self-harm, or had a health care professional diagnose you with an eating disorder that you believe was worsened due to social media, know that our thoughts are with you and your family. You may contact attorney Jonathan Orent by phone at 1.800.768.4026 or complete this form at any time to talk through your family’s situation and any potential legal options you may have. If you choose to speak with one of our lawyers, you should know that we understand the sensitive nature of your potential case and will do everything in our power to keep your information private.

The hidden dangers of social media 

On May 23, 2023, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy called for “urgent action” stating, “The most common question parents ask me is, ‘is social media safe for my kids’. The answer is that we don't have enough evidence to say it's safe, and in fact, there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health. … We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis – one that we must urgently address.”

In October 2021, a former Facebook data scientist turned whistleblower told members of Congress that the social media giant is well aware that its algorithmic systems, which are designed to increase and prolong user engagement, can have damaging effects on vulnerable individuals, including children. Facebook’s parent company, now known as Meta, is capable of doing more to prioritize the wellbeing of children, the whistleblower alleged, but profits simply come first in the company’s culture. 

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” Facebook wrote in a 2019 internal presentation according to documents that were revealed through a Wall Street Journal investigation. The presentation summarized research about teen girls who experienced issues after using Facebook.

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posed to Facebook’s internal message board, according to The Wall Street Journal report. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

Read the full report from The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 15, 2021): “The Facebook Files: A Wall Street Journal Investigation

Bombshell testimony by the Facebook whistleblower renewed public scrutiny of the company within weeks of The Wall Street Journal report being released, but this issue isn’t limited to just Facebook. A 2019 study published by Current Opinion in Psychiatry titled “Social media, internet use and suicide attempts in adolescents” reviewed multiple social media platforms and concluded: 

“Current evidence suggests that excessive or ‘problematic’ use of social media/internet does impact suicide risk, specifically increasing the risk of suicide attempts. … As internet and social media platforms develop, more understanding of the specific risks and mechanisms associated with different types of digital activity, by different population groups will be essential to understand risk and pave the way for specific interventions.”

Another 2019 study published by the International Journal of Eating Disorders reviewed nearly 1,000 children averaging 13 years old and found the more social media accounts the children had and the more time spent using them, the more likely they were to display disordered eating and in increasing severity:  “A clear pattern of association was found between [social media] usage and [disordered eating] cognitions and behaviors with this exploratory study confirming that these relationships occur at younger-age than previously investigated.”

In 2017, Facebook co-founder, Sean Parker, told Axios in an interview, that the social network was built to exploit vulnerabilities in human psychology. He was quoted saying “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

In need of help?

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicide ideation, you should know that free, confidential support is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988. Visit the Lifeline online at

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), is also available online at or by phone toll-free at 1-800-931-2237. 

In the news

Law360 (June, 29, 2023): Cos. Argue Social Media Immunity From Mental Health Claims

FOX Carolina (May 9, 2023): Carolina mom suing social media giant Meta

The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 11, 2023): United Against Big Tech Abuses

Wyoming News (Oct. 12, 2022): Doctor Details Dangers of Tech For Teens

The Wall Street Journal (Feb. 3, 2022): What Parents Can Do When Kids Have Suicidal Thoughts

The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 15, 2021): The Facebook Files: A Wall Street Journal Investigation

Medical News Today (Jan. 17, 2022): Does social media impact mental health? What we really know

NPR (Oct. 5, 2021): Here are 4 key points from the Facebook whistleblower's testimony on Capitol Hill

The New York Times (Oct. 22, 2021): Eating Disorders and Social Media Prove Difficult to Untangle

HealthDay News (Dec. 5, 2019): More Teen Time on Social Media, More Eating Disorders?