Social Media Addiction Among Youth: Who Can Be Held Liable?

Last Updated November 16, 2022

Has your child developed self-harming behaviors, eating disorders, or other mental health conditions due to social media usage? Have they committed or attempted suicide? Read on to learn what your legal compensation options are.

Popular social media platforms may be contributing to suicide and mental harm in teenagers and children.

Nine out of ten teens use Facebook and/or Instagram, and spend an average of three hours a day on the platforms. Excessive exposure to the platforms may put the mental health of youths at risk, and can lead to self-harm, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation.

Even more disturbing is the idea that social media platforms may have purposely targeted children and teens, using various features and algorithms to make the platforms even more addictive so that users spend more time on the apps.

Social media companies must be held accountable for engaging in dangerous practices that manipulate minor-aged users. Lawsuits are now being filed to hold major companies liable for wrongful deaths and other harms stemming from the use of social media by children and teens.

At Levin Simes Abrams, our San Francisco-based team stands on the side of justice to protect the rights of those who have been taken advantage of by large corporations for profit. Contact us at (415) 426-3000 if your family has been affected by social media issues and you need legal representation.

What Are the Dangers of Social Media for Youth Currently?

Currently, the main danger of social media for youth is addiction and the resulting mental harm it may cause. As mentioned, such exposure can have long-term negative effects on younger persons who are particularly susceptible to influence.

This exposure wields long-lasting negative impacts on teens’ still-developing brains and puts their mental health at risk. The concerning part is that companies like Facebook and Instagram have used tactics that capitalize on addictive behaviors in order to increase profits.

For instance, whistleblower Frances Haugen produced documents that showed how features and algorithms were implemented which were designed to increase the time users spent on Facebook and Instagram. The tactics were deployed even though the company knew the designs were causing irreparable harm to young users.

These techniques and practices included: 

  • Exploiting human psychology to increase addiction to social media use
  • Aiming to have the user consume as much time as possible on the platform
  • Creating a “dopamine hit” through use of the tools
  • Preying on the impressionable, vulnerable minds of children
  • “Infinite Scroll” – the pages purposely have no end to keep users on the page
  • “Push notifications” sent to the user to pull them back into the platform after exiting
  • Use of “Intermittent Variable Rewards,” which is a system designed to be addictive

Current product liability claims against the social media giant are the result of a massive outcry by parents and victims, who long to end a plague of mental health disorders, body image perception issues, eating disorders, and even suicides.

Related risks for youths on social media include cyberbullying, harassment, stalking, and sexual assault. As youths spend more and more time on the platforms, this means increased risk for these types of violations to occur as well.

Contact us at (415) 426-3000 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights and options. We care deeply for our clients and their families, and for the youth, who are the future of our communities.

What Are the Links Between Social Media and Teen Mental Health?

Social media use by children and teens may contribute to:

  • Body dysmorphia (self-image issues)
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Hospitalization
  • Self-harm
  • Sexual exploitation and abuse
  • Suicide

These are the devastating issues that countless parents have to deal with. Many parents are outraged to learn that these conditions may be the direct result of social media companies’ intentional efforts to exploit their children.

Studies on Social Media and Self Harm, Suicide, and Other Risks

An important study showed that increased rates of suicide among youths parallels the simultaneous increase in social media use. In addition, evidence suggests that self-harming youths are more active on social media networks than those who do not engage in self-harming behavior.

Consider the following: 

  • Social media use may lead to increased exposure to and engagement in self-harm behavior due to users receiving negative messages promoting self-harm
  • Younger users may also be emulating self-harm behavior they observe in others online
  • Greater time on social media is linked to higher psychological distress
  • At the same time, teens are not fully having their mental health needs met

The study states, “In conclusion, greater time spent on online social networking promotes self-harm behavior and suicidal ideation in vulnerable adolescents.”

In addition, parental controls are basically non-existent on such platforms, and there is little to no age-based content filtering. As such, social media companies must be held liable for their failures in light of such overwhelming data.

What Will Filing a Social Media Lawsuit Do?

Filing a lawsuit against social media companies can provide injured and harmed families with relief from the hardships they are undergoing. The damages from such a lawsuit may help to cover losses such as:

  • Medical and hospital bills
  • Costs of medicines and other treatments
  • Therapy and rehabilitation expenses
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Various other losses

In many cases, a damages award can also cover medical and psychiatric expenses not typically covered by insurance.

Besides monetary damages, a social media lawsuit can accomplish the following changes:

  • Raise awareness of the dangers of social media for youth
  • Change the way social media is marketed and presented to young people
  • Force social media to adopt more stringent safety and security measures
  • Prevent similar harm from befalling other children and teens in the future

Currently, there are a multitude of social media lawsuits being filed in connection with mental health and suicide issues. These are in the process of being centralized into multi-district litigation (MDL) to help expedite the process.

This movement is similar to the one behind the Juul lawsuits, where Juul was targeting young people with their vape products through enticing flavors and product names. Juul has now been banned as parents are now recognizing the techniques and tactics corporations are using to market to their children.

Should I Contact a Lawyer for Help with a Social Media Lawsuit?

As can be seen in the social media and Juul lawsuits, parents will no longer stand for their children being illegally exploited for corporate profit and gain. These types of movements may be signaling an overall shift in our society; as awareness of these issues increases, corporations must face the consequences of their wrongdoings more directly.

People whose children developed suicidal behavior or experienced depression, anxiety, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or other harm after using popular social media platforms may seek compensation on the child’s behalf.

At Levin Simes Abram, our women-led legal team is at the forefront of the charge to hold large corporations liable. Contact us at (415) 426-3000 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights and options. We care deeply for our clients and their families, and for the youth, who are the future of our communities.

Levin Simes Abrams