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Snapchat is getting sued for affecting teen mental health

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  • 4 min read

Amid growing concerns about social media’s impact on teenage mental health, legal challenges have emerged against major platforms, including Snapchat. The latest is a lawsuit brought forth by the four Canadian school boards: Toronto, Peel, Toronto Catholic, and Ottawa-Carleton.

The four school boards have launched a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Meta, Snapchat, and ByteDance, arguing that the platforms’ negligent design for compulsive use has disrupted students’ education and mental well-being, increased school costs, and strained resources. The school boards are seeking damages north of $4 billion.

It is now widely known that social media significantly impacts teenagers. As per research by the Royal Society for Public Health, Instagram and Snapchat have been ranked the worst and most detrimental to young people’s mental health.

The research found that teenagers face anxiety, loneliness, sleep issues, body image issues, self-expression issues, and bullying, among others.

As per the Schools for Social Media Change, a coalition of school boards working on demanding accountability from social media, the constant use of various social media has resulted in inattentive students in classes, additional costs of increased mental health support, extra time needed by educators to address issues caused by compulsive social media use, and excessive property damage and vandalism as a result of social media usage.

In February, it was reported that New York City filed a lawsuit against TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube.

The same month, it was also reported that parents in the United States are suing Instagram and Snapchat for disrupting the mental health of their children.

The primary litigant is Laurie, an American health executive whose daughter’s mental health deteriorated due to extensive social media use. Laurie’s daughter experienced a decline in mental well-being, leading to self-harm and suicidal thoughts after exposure to harmful content on platforms like Snapchat.

As with the Canadian school boards’ lawsuit, this lawsuit also highlights the addictive and harmful aspects of social media products, which the schools and parents believe have led to unprecedented challenges in managing students’ mental well-being.

Snapchat stuggles as the number of active users dwindle
Snapchat and Instagram have been ranked the worst two social networks for teenage mental health.

Although the companies face severe legal challenges, they might get some relief through Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The Act is quite ancient and was passed to protect the then-emerging IT sector in the United States.

The section states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”.

There is also a growing voice in the country to abolish Section 230 of the Act.

“Snapchat was intentionally designed to be different from traditional social media, with a focus on helping Snapchatters communicate with their close friends. Snapchat opens directly to a camera – rather than a feed of content that encourages passive scrolling – and has no traditional public likes or comments,” said the official spokesperson of Snapchat.

Also, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill prohibiting children under 14 from using social media. The bill orders social media companies to delete the profiles of such children, or they could be fined up to $50,000.

Experts closely watch these legal battles as they challenge the legal immunity granted to tech companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The lawsuits underscore a growing consensus among educators, psychologists, and parents that social media platforms must be held accountable for their role in shaping teenage mental health.

As these legal proceedings progress, there is a broader conversation about the need for regulatory reforms and responsible design practices to mitigate social media’s negative impact on vulnerable populations, especially teenagers.

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Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: kumarhemant@pm.me

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