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What Are Parents’ Concerns About Social Media?

What Are Parents’ Concerns About Social Media?

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Social media use is common among kids and teens. However, many parents are worried about what their children see and how they may be hurt as a result of using social media. Studies have reported higher levels of depression, anxiety and self-esteem issues among teens who use these apps regularly.

Below, we look at what data may support parental concerns about social media.

How much are teens using social media?

According to surveys from the Pew Research Center, using social media is a daily part of life for an overwhelming majority of American teens. 

Surveyed teens were asked to discuss how often they use apps, what apps they use and how difficult it would be to stop. Highlights of the surveys include:

  • Daily use: YouTube has the most daily use among teens, with more than 70% of teens saying they use the platform every day. About 60% said they use TikTok daily. 
  • Constant use: About 33% reported they used YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook “almost constantly.” 
  • Hard to stop use: A majority of teens reported that it would be at least somewhat difficult to stop using social media. About 20% felt that giving up social media altogether would be “very hard.”

The daily, constant use of these platforms — a use that’s hard for kids to give up — has many parents concerned about the number of young people who may be addicted to social media.

Parents’ concerns about social media harming their children

Parents may have a wide range of concerns about how social media can harm their children. 

  • Experiencing anxiety or depression: Research suggests a link between social media usage and experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. These are serious medical conditions that may lead to self-harm or suicide if left untreated.
  • Lowering of self-esteem: Use of social media may damage teens’ body image and self-esteem. , This may lead to anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Eating disorders greatly increase the risks of premature death and suicide.
  • Pressuring to act a certain way: Children and teens are susceptible to peer feedback from social media in ways that adults aren’t. Young people may feel pressured to act in a certain way by peers, such as engaging in “challenges” that may hurt them or others.

Ultimately, many parents and others are concerned about the long-term impact of social media on the well-being and development of their tween and adolescent children. The U.S. Surgeon General has even acknowledged that social media companies are more focused on maximizing engagement than the safety of users, including children.

“Business models are often built around maximizing user engagement as opposed to safeguarding users’ health and ensuring that users engage with one another in safe and healthy ways . . . . Technology companies must step up and take responsibility for creating a safe digital environment for children and youth.” 
— Protecting Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory 

How parents and others are addressing social media harms

Parents and others are looking to hold social media companies accountable for the dangers young people face from social media. Other people looking to hold companies accountable include school districts and administrators. Some school districts have even chosen to file their own social media harm lawsuits due to the financial burden imposed upon them in dealing with this crisis.

With these social media lawsuits, parents, guardians and educators hope to protect children.

Parents and young adults file social media harm lawsuits

Parents and young adults who are personally impacted by social media harms are filing lawsuits against major social media companies. These companies include:

  • ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok
  • Google, the parent company of YouTube
  • Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram
  • Snap, the parent company of Snapchat

In personal injury lawsuits, people are alleging that these addictive social media apps are dangerous to the mental well-being of young people. They further allege that they or a loved one have suffered from:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide

Motley Rice is proud to stand with victims of social media harms and their families. Our team is part of the current multidistrict litigation (MDL), In re Social Media Adolescent Addiction/Personal Injury Products Liability Litigation, case no. 4:22-md-03047. This MDL handles individual personal injury claims against social media companies.

As of May 1, 2024, 455 cases have been consolidated into the MDL.

In 2022, Previn Warren, a Motley Rice attorney, was appointed as co-lead counsel for the social media harm MDL. The MDL is still in its beginning stages, with the parties submitting pre-trial motions. As of November 2023, the plaintiffs’ cases have survived an initial motion to dismiss, meaning that litigation can continue.

Contact a social media mental health attorney

Motley Rice is reviewing allegations that multiple social media platforms intentionally and deliberately designed their social media apps without regard for the safety of children.

Our thoughts go out to those affected by attention disorders, suicide, self-harm and eating disorders worsened by social media.
Call Attorney Jonathan Orent at 1.800.768.4026 or complete this form to explore your options.

Public schools echoing parents’ concerns about social media

Public schools have also started to feel the mental health impacts of social media on kids and teens. As of February 2024, more than 200 school districts have filed lawsuits against social media companies, alleging that they are contributing to a mental health crisis among their students.

Some of the school districts filing lawsuits against social media platforms include:

  • San Mateo County Board of Education (not represented by Motley Rice)
  • Charleston County School District (represented by Motley Rice)
  • Seattle Public Schools (not represented by Motley Rice)
  • Fayetteville School District (represented by Motley Rice)

These schools and local governments recognize the harmful effects of social media on the young people they serve. Beyond that, the schools and local governments also bear additional costs as they try to mitigate and undo the damage they allege comes from social media platforms.

Particular harms that school districts are suing social media companies over include:

  • Struggling for attention: The plaintiffs allege that the addictive nature of social media means that educators must constantly struggle to maintain focus in the classroom. This leads to an increase in cost to discourage social media use in the classroom.
  • Reworking lesson plans for brains altered by social media: Educators must devise lesson plans that now accommodate children with impaired attention spans and critical thinking skills. This leads to additional human hours spent reworking lesson plans.
  • Increasing mental health services: Schools are often the ones providing mental health services to young people. However, the challenge of providing sufficient care in the ever-evolving digital age means taking resources from other educational programs. This leads to costs associated with increases to mental health resources.
  • Damage to school property: Some social media challenges include destroying, vandalizing or stealing school property. For example, one TikTok challenge led to thousands of dollars in property damage for Lucia Mar Unified School District in California. 

These costs place an undue burden on school districts and educators.

Our experience helping families stand against tech companies

Motley Rice attorneys have worked for decades fighting for families and people. Our experience includes representing people who are suing tech companies because of harm they’ve suffered.

You may be eligible to file a lawsuit if you believe social media caused you or your child to experience the following:

  • Attempted or died by suicide
  • Received treatment for self-harm
  • Received a diagnosis of a mental health disorder from a healthcare professional

If you believe these conditions were caused or worsened by social media and you need help filing a lawsuit for social media harm, please contact us. Your well-being is important to our team.

Read more about filing a social media lawsuit.

  1. American Psychological Association. Why young brains are especially vulnerable to social media.
  2. CBS 17. Wake County schools filing lawsuit against social media companies for effects on youth mental health.
  3. CBS Albany. New York state and local schools take legal action against social media giants over student mental health concerns.
  4. CBS Austin. Hundreds of school districts sue social media companies over youth mental health concerns.
  5. Chansiri, K., & Wongphothiphan, T. The indirect effects of Instagram images on women’s self-esteem: The moderating roles of BMI and perceived weight. 2021 July 29. New Media & Society, 25(10), 2572-2594.
  6. Cleveland Clinic. Anorexia Nervosa.
  7. NPR. Schools Close Bathrooms Due To Vandalization From TikTok 'Devious Licks' Trend. 
  8. The Pew Research Center. Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022.
  9. The Pew Research Center. Teens, Social Media and Technology 2023.
  10. Riehm KE, Feder KA, Tormohlen KN, Crum RM, Young AS, Green KM, et al. Associations between time spent using social media and internalizing and externalizing problems among US youth. JAMA Psychiatry. 2019 Dec 1;76(12):1266–73.
  11. San Mateo County Office of Education. Lawsuit Against Social Media Companies.
  12. Seattle Public Schools. Social Media Complaint Filed by Seattle Public Schools.
  13. United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Pending MDLs by Actions Pending.