School Districts Joining Social Media Addiction Lawsuits, Seeking Reimbursement for Costs Necessary to Address Mental Health Problems

Lawsuit alleges that school districts have been forced to put in place mental health programs, mobile crisis units and other costly efforts to combat social media addictions among students.

School districts nationwide are beginning to join with distraught parents in filing social media addiction lawsuits against Facebook, TikTok and other platforms that they say were intentionally designed in a way that has caused substantial damage to children’s mental health, which schools must then spend resources to address.

A growing number of complaints are being filed in federal courts nationwide by parents, who claim companies like Meta and Google have intentionally employed techniques that increase user time and engagement, as well as the type of content users see, as part of an effort to increase profits.

Social media lawsuits claim that these tactics have now caused serious addiction and self-destructive behaviors among teens, leading to increased anxiety, depression, eating disorders and psychological damage, and even suicide, especially among young girls.

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In recent months, school districts have begun joining the litigation from states nationwide. One recent complaint (PDF) was filed by the Oakland County School District in Michigan, which oversees the education of about 200,000 children in a suburban area of Detroit, and is the second-most populated county in the state.

The lawsuit was filed on April 29 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Similar lawsuits have been filed by districts in other states, who say social media causes widespread depression, anxiety and disruption among student populations that schools must address with time and funding.

“County of Oakland residents have borne painful witness to all of this, firsthand, to devastating effect. Youth in the County of Oakland, surveyed in 2022, reported high levels of depression and histories of suicide ideation,” the lawsuit states. “Like virtually everywhere in the United States now, Municipal plaintiff County of Oakland’s youth suffer from a high degree of distraction, depression, suicidality, and other mental disorders, caused or worsened by the overconsumption of social media on a daily basis, which substantially interferes with the rights of health and safety common to the general public. Indeed, County of Oakland has funded the institution of mental health outpatient programs, mobile crisis units, family-based mental health services, and extensive in-school mental health programming and trainings to address youth mental health specifically. The need is that great.”

The lawsuit names Meta, Snap, TikTok and Google as defendants, accusing them of negligence and public nuisance.

Allegations raised by the school districts mirror those being raised in separate complaints pursued by parents, maintaining that the platforms should be held financially accountable for placing profits before the mental health of teen users..

The lawsuits also argue that social media companies do not sufficiently monitor or moderate their platforms, and that the algorithms used by these platforms prioritize engagement over safety, potentially leading to children being exposed to harmful content or predatory individuals through recommended videos, posts, or user connections.

Each of the social media platform giants have been accused of ignoring clear evidence about the harmful consequences of their behavior, indicating that they have refused to do anything to prevent the addiction and emotional distress, since it would directly impact profits.

May 2024 Social Media Addiction Lawsuit Update

With a growing number of complaints being filed against Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and SnapChat throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) issued a transfer order in October 2022, establishing a social media addiction lawsuit MDL (multidistrict litigation) before U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California.

Since the consolidation was established, the JPML’s latest docket report indicates that there are now at least 455 lawsuits against social media platforms pending in the multidistrict litigation as of May 1, with the potential for thousands of claims to be added to the docket in the coming years.

As part of the pretrial management, the court is currently establishing a bellwether process, in which the parties will begin selecting the first social media addiction lawsuit in the multidistrict litigation to go before a jury sometime by late 2025.

While the outcome of any potential social medical addiction verdicts rendered by juries would not directly impact the hundreds of pending claims, the results will gauge how juries are likely to respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.

However, if social media addiction settlements are not reached to resolve the claims during the MDL proceedings, each individual lawsuit may later be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a future trial.


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