Can I Sue TikTok?

by: Motley Rice

You may be eligible to sue ByteDance Ltd., the parent company of TikTok, if you experienced mental harm or financial damages from using the platform. Lawsuits are pending for alleged harm to young TikTok users, local governments and school districts . Learn more about why people are suing TikTok and if you might be eligible.

Who is suing TikTok?

The negative effects of TikTok are far-reaching and have impacted many types of people. Three main groups are filing lawsuits against TikTok and other social media companies:

  • Parents of harmed minors: Parents or guardians of minors (anyone under 17 years old) who’ve experienced harm from using TikTok may be able to file a lawsuit for the harm done to their child. Parents may also be able to sue for personal emotional distress in some situations.
  • Adults harmed as minors: If you are an adult (between the ages of 18 and 25 years old) who was harmed by social media as a minor, you could be eligible to file a lawsuit.
  • Local governments or school districts: Local governments and school districts are suing, alleging increased costs associated with the ongoing teen mental health crisis. They are also suing for property damages related to social media challenges.

What can you sue TikTok for?

People are suing social media platforms like TikTok for a number of negative outcomes, including social media addiction, negative impacts on mental health and self-harm. Read on to learn more about these harms.

Social media addiction

People are suing TikTok, alleging that the platform and its algorithms are intentionally designed to be addictive. The more time users spend on the app, the more TikTok can increase profits from ad revenue. TikTok addiction can lead to negative mental health consequences, especially for minors targeted by the app.

TikTok addiction, explained

According to researchers, TikTok and other social media addictions result from the feedback loops the apps create. Gaining friends and followers or receiving likes on a video causes a release of the “happy hormones,” serotonin and dopamine, similar to giving or receiving a gift. It also fills a child’s need to feel accepted by others.

Unfortunately, this type of dopamine release can quickly become addictive, resulting in overuse of the app with negative outcomes. Much like a slot machine, social media sites maximize addictiveness because the amount of interaction with your content varies. This causes users to return to social media sites repeatedly, looking for a social reward.

Signs of a TikTok addiction

Think you or someone you love might have an addiction to social media? Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Decreased ability to engage with reality
  • Excessive scrolling
  • Inattention to time 
  • Reduction in productivity
  • Lowered attention span
  • Use of social media to avoid real-world problems

Mental health and TikTok

Individuals and families are filing lawsuits against TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance. TikTok lawsuits filed on behalf of harmed children and their families are often related to mental health harm. Researchers have found the following mental health conditions associated with social media use: 

  • Anxiety
  • Body image issues
  • Depression
  • Insomnia

These mental health conditions are serious and may lead to long-term harm and emotional damage.

Self-harm and TikTok

Some people, especially teen and pre-teen girls, may develop self-harming behaviors associated with social media use. These behaviors harm not only minors but also their guardians, family and friends.

Studies have shown that increased time online can be specifically linked to negative self-perception, especially concerning weight and the ideal body type. Some studies indicated that social media use made body image issues worse in one in three teenage girls.

There are a number of mental health issues that might lead to self-harm. However, eating disorders are highly correlated to self-harm behaviors like cutting and suicidal ideation or actions.

Need to talk now?

Are you struggling with self-harm or suicidal thoughts? The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available by calling 988 you can also use their live chat via their website.

If you or a loved one need help with disordered eating, contact the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) at their toll-free phone number:1-800-931-2237 or visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

Why are schools suing TikTok?

Schools and local governments are alleging financial harm from social media sites. Schools often act as the first step in mental health care for students in crisis. The uptick in the need for mental health counseling in schools is just one of the cost increases schools face as a result of student social media use.
 
Some of the reasons local governments and schools are suing social media platforms include:

  • Additional training for teachers and staff to recognize signs of a mental health crisis
  • Budget increases for curriculum changes to accommodate varying learning and mental health needs
  • Hiring of additional staff to provide mental health counseling
  • Hiring of additional staff to deal with increases in disciplinary actions
  • Property damage resulting from video challenges or other platform-related physical damage
  • Use of school funds to investigate threats to the school, district or individuals

How to sue TikTok

Should you wish to sue TikTok and its parent company ByteDance, the first step is to contact an attorney. An attorney can help you determine if you’re eligible to file a lawsuit.

Social media cases are now being filed and consolidated into a multidistrict litigation docket (MDL). This helps organize similar cases and expedite individual lawsuits. This does not mean you are joining a class action lawsuit. All lawsuits organized in the MDL are still individual cases.

Our experience with social media companies

Motley Rice attorneys have worked for decades to protect children and families against corporations who have harmed them. This includes social media and technology companies. If you need help filing a lawsuit based on addiction and mental health problems or other damages related to social media, we may be able to help.

Read more about our experience with social media lawsuits.

Sources
  1. Brown Undergraduate Journal of Public Health. What Makes TikTok so Addictive?: An Analysis of the Mechanisms Underlying the World’s Latest Social Media Craze.
  2. Forbes. Digital Crack Cocaine: The Science Behind TikTok’s Success.
  3. Forbes. These TikTok Accounts Are Hiding Child Sexual Abuse Material In Plain Sight.
  4. Spiegel International. The Slot Machine in Your Pocket. 
  5. Tiggemann M, Slater A. NetTweens: The Internet and Body Image Concerns in Preteenage Girls. The Journal of Early Adolescence. 2014 Jun;34(5):606–20.
  6. Wall Street Journal. Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show.
  7. Wired. On TikTok, There Is No Time.


 

Motley Rice