By: Natalie Portnoy, Contributing Writer (‘25)

This past January, Seattle Public Schools filed a lawsuit against the companies behind TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat, alleging that these companies are knowingly contributing to the ongoing youth mental health crisis. According to the schools, “This mental health crisis is no accident. It is the result of the Defendants’ deliberate choices and affirmative actions to design and market their social media platforms to attract youth.”

To support these claims, the schools point to research showing that social media use leads to mental and behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and cyberbullying. The crisis has reached alarming heights in recent years; the total number of hospitalizations for psychiatric cases in the State of Washington has doubled between 2015 and 2021.

They also rely on recent testimony from social media executives who confess to the companies’ practice of intentional marketing to youths. In 2021, Frances Haugen exposed internal studies from Facebook that showed the company knew its Instagram app negatively affected teenagers.

So you might ask, what does this crisis have to do with schools? The Seattle schools claim that this mental health crisis is costing them a lot of money. To address the crises, schools now need to hire professional counselors, train teachers, as well as educate and treat students. If it wasn’t for the social media companies, this amount of money would have likely not been spent or reallocated for other funds.

Chatham School District in New Jersey is also suing social media corporations over the crisis, voicing the same grievances as Seattle. The social media companies claim that they’ve taken steps to keep young people safe on their platforms, such as adding age restriction requirements. English teacher and Co-Chair of the Wyckoff Stigma Free Committee Mrs. Patrickio expresses her opinion on the lawsuit and its application to Indian Hills Students. “The lawsuit is a stand that needs to be taken and, quite frankly, there should be a class action suit on behalf of all school districts in the United States. The Seattle school district is treating it appropriately because they are trusted educational professionals who have seen the effects firsthand on the academic side and the social and emotional side of students.

“As someone who entered this profession when social media was in its infancy (Myspace), I have witnessed the detrimental change in students significantly. School districts and educational personnel are at their wit’s end. They have exhausted all avenues. They are spending tax dollars on education programs and guest speakers for students and families regarding the safe use of social media to no avail, additional professionals are hired to combat the growing cases of mental health issues resulting from social media use, and they are paying for treatment centers/ outpatient programs geared to aiding students in their recovery.

“Is it entirely the fault of the social media conglomerates? Not necessarily. Invention, discovery, and entrepreneurialism are all part of our way of life. This is a capitalist nation, but these companies haven’t done anything to change the narrative or alter the paradigm either. So essentially, the schools have done everything they can, it’s time for the social media companies to take ownership of the beast they created.”

Krystal Mason, a junior at Indian Hills, takes a similar stance on the issue. “Overall I think the lawsuit is 100% reasonable. Social media platforms directly contribute to the mental well-being of all teens whether it is unintentional or not. Schools are supposed to have their students’ best interests at heart, so if that is what they feel is a necessary measure, I think schools absolutely have every right to sue. Negative information is constantly spewed at teens on a daily basis through social media and although all creators have the ability to post whatever they choose, there are measures that social media can take to filter out toxic content. Therefore, I feel that social media platforms are mostly at fault for the youth mental health crisis. The Seattle district is doing the right thing. There is not much school districts can do about this unfortunately given how powerful the social media industry is. However, if one school district stands up, more school districts may join in to spark true change.”

Both students and teachers want to hold social media accountable for the part they play in the youth mental health crisis. Students should continue to learn and recognize the negative impacts of increased screen time, unfiltered content, and addictive properties of social media.