It is becoming increasingly clear to many that social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube among others are addictive and harmful to youth. Children and teens seem especially vulnerable. If you or your child has suffered harm from social media use, we may be able to help you with a social media lawsuit that seeks to hold the responsible companies accountable.
The dangers of social media
A growing body of research suggests a link between social media and mental health problems. Teens and children appear especially at risk of developing addictive and disordered behaviors from heavy social media use. Some allege getting young people addicted to Instagram and Facebook may be the goal of Meta, the parent company of the two platforms, in order to boost engagement.
Social media can affect the brain the way gambling and certain drugs do. Likes, comments and other notifications may cause the brain to release dopamine. This chemical – the same one released while playing slot machines or drinking alcohol – creates feelings of pleasure.
Young people are at particular risk. The impulse-control part of the brain in teens and children is less developed than in adults. This can manifest in addictive behaviors like:
- Aggressive online behavior
- Compulsively checking social media
- Decreased interest in offline activities
- Spending long periods of time on social media
- Withdrawal symptoms when logged off, including mood swings
Teens and children manifesting these symptoms may be at risk for serious mental health issues.
Social media health effects
Social media is contributing to an ongoing youth mental health crisis in the United States and abroad. Victims of this crisis have begun filing social media lawsuits. These lawsuits cite studies on adolescents documenting several health issues allegedly caused or worsened due to social media use, including the following:
- Body dysmorphia
- Eating disorders
- Low self-esteem
- Sleep problems
- Suicide and suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts)
Young users may also experience cyberbullying and are at risk of algorithmic direction resulting in unwanted exposure to harmful messaging and imagery—including depictions of self-injury and posts related to suicide. These may cause more harm to young users unable to disengage with social media because of addictive behaviors. In some cases, social media may aggravate pre-existing mental health problems like ADHD and body dysmorphia.
Researchers have also found differences in the way social media affects people of different genders. A 2021 study found for girls 12 to 15, “a high level of social media or television use in early adolescence followed by a marked increase over time was most predictive of suicide risk in emerging adulthood.” Teen girls have also self-reported worsening disordered eating from frequent social media use.
The risks of social media are more well understood than ever. Still, companies continue to deflect responsibility and fall short of making impactful changes.
In need of help?
If you or a loved one is struggling with suicide ideation, know that free, confidential support is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988. Visit the Lifeline online at 988lifeline.org.
The National Eating Disorder Association is also available online at nationaleatingdisorders.org or by phone toll-free at 1-800-931-2237.
Are social media companies targeting young users?
Some allege social media is addictive by design.
In October 2023, 33 states accused Meta Platforms, Inc. (Meta, formerly Facebook) of building addictive features into Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. State officials allege Meta collects data on children without parental consent and uses that data to build algorithms aimed at keeping kids engaged.
This comes two years after a whistleblower exposed Facebook’s dangerous behavior in the face of evidence their products harmed people. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook data analyst, provided internal documents and testified before the Senate that Facebook’s own researchers linked Instagram use to suicidal thoughts and body image issues.
In her testimony, Haugen stated, “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.”
As more people become aware of the dangers of social media, more people are taking legal action against Meta and other companies.
Contact a social media attorney
Motley Rice is reviewing allegations that multiple social media platforms, including Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat, are intentionally and deliberately designed without regard for the safety of our children.
Our thoughts go out to those affected by suicide, self-harm, and eating disorders worsened by social media.
Social media multidistrict litigation
People harmed by social media companies are increasingly filing lawsuits for compensation. This includes litigation not only against Meta’s platforms. Other companies like Snap, Inc., TikTok, Inc., Google LLC, and Alphabet Inc. (parent companies of YouTube) have also been named in social media lawsuits. These social media lawsuits largely focus on harms to adolescents.
Motley Rice is engaged in multidistrict litigation (MDL) in the Northern District of California against several social media companies. MDLs are not class actions, but instead are a tool that consolidates a mass of related individual cases filed by people across the country and puts them in one district court for resolution of pretrial and discovery matters for cost and time efficiency purposes. In this case, our lawyers will be presenting evidence that companies like TikTok, Snap, YouTube, and Meta design their products to maximize screen time and encourage addictive behaviors.
As evidence of the dangers of social media increases, our social media lawyers continue to review allegations that social media companies:
- Created algorithms designed to addict children and young adults
- Marketed their products as safe for children and young adults in the face of contradictory evidence
- Failed to warn parents and users of the negative health effects of their platforms
- Failed to verify the ages of users
Our clients’ allegations detail heartbreaking stories of mental illness, self-harm, and even death. If you or your family are struggling with the dangerous effects of social media, you are not alone. As awareness of these issues grows, so does a desire to hold these companies accountable for the harm they have caused.
Our social media lawsuit experience
Motley Rice attorneys have worked for decades fighting for families and people. Our experience includes representing people dealing with tech companies and the harm they’ve caused. If you or your child attempted or died by suicide, was treated for self-harm, or were diagnosed by a health care professional with an eating disorder that you believe was worsened by social media and you need help filing a lawsuit for social media harm, our law firm can assist. Your well-being is important to our team.