PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Pinellas County Schools has joined a multi-district lawsuit against social media companies. The lawsuit claims platforms, including Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram have contributed to a mental health crisis leading to problems in the classroom.
Social media is constantly at our fingertips and the message has been made clear it’s contributing to a mental health crisis among our youth. It’s a problem that Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital sees daily.
“We continue to see distress, anxiety, and depressed mood, as well as suicidal thoughts and cyberbullying from social media utilization,” said Dr. Katzenstein.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, Pinellas County School Board members unanimously voted to move forward in filing a lawsuit against the parent companies of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube.
“Those companies knew of some of the deleterious effects of the platforms upon youths and did not do anything about it to mitigate it,” said David Koperski, an attorney representing the board.
Koperski said the suit will allow the district to recoup taxpayer resources spent to address cyberbullying and other mental health issues.
“We see reduced attention span, reduce cognitive development or delayed cognitive development, learning impacts, behavior, discipline, physical health, mental health, depression, and certainly the worst that could happen to any family or school family, which is the loss of life,” said School Board Vice Chairperson Laura Hine.
Hine said while Pinellas schools work to limit access to social content, the harm done by it is significant. She said these companies need to create an algorithm to protect our youth.
“In our community, when we band together, when we support one another, when we make outside activities and things like sports, a priority, or any activity that is not device-related that can mitigate the effects of our device time use,” said Dr. Katzenstein.
Dr. Katzenstein said if parents have concerns about their child’s behavior, you can reach out to your child’s pediatrician or a psychologist or dial 988 for the suicide lifeline.
News Channel 8 reached out to all the social media companies named in the lawsuit.
A spokesperson for Google shared this statement:
“Protecting kids across our platforms has always been core to our work. In collaboration with child development specialists, we have built age-appropriate experiences for kids and families on YouTube, and provide parents with robust controls. The allegations in these complaints are simply not true.”
A Snapchat Spokesperson sent this response:
“Snapchat was designed differently from other social media platforms because nothing is more important to us than the well-being of our community. Our app opens directly to a camera rather than a feed of content that encourages passive scrolling and is primarily used to help real friends communicate. We aren’t an app that encourages perfection or popularity, and we vet all content before it can reach a large audience, which helps protect against the promotion and discovery of potentially harmful material. While we will always have more work to do, we feel good about the role Snapchat plays in helping friends feel connected, informed, happy, and prepared as they face the many challenges of adolescence.”