The Charles County Board of Education has taken legal action against several major social media corporations, including Meta, Google, ByteDance, and Snap Inc., claiming their products fuel the youth mental health crisis and strain educational resources. The lawsuit is part of a growing national trend. Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) is among multiple educational systems in Maryland and across the U.S. to hold these tech companies accountable.
The lawsuit argues that the addictive nature of platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok contributes to mental health issues among youth. It emphasizes how the algorithms used by these platforms are designed to keep users engaged, often leading to excessive use. The lawsuit also asserts that these platforms don’t provide adequate safeguards to authenticate user account details, allowing children under the minimum age of 13 to participate.
Maria V. Navarro, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools, said, “We know kids are coming to school with mental health struggles that may be exacerbated by their use of social media and exposure to harmful algorithms. We see these impacts each day when students come to school and struggle to get through the day. We hope this lawsuit holds the platform providers accountable for their negative impacts on children.”
The suit also claims that the targeted nature of these platforms exploits a compulsion in youth to feel socially connected, exacerbating issues like depression, anxiety, and possible suicidal ideation. It accuses the companies of prioritizing profits over the safety and well-being of children despite being aware of the detrimental effects of social media on mental health.
To combat the growing mental health crisis, CCPS has hired four additional school psychologists, eight additional counselors, and three additional behavioral support program staff for the 2023-2024 academic year. The school system will also soon offer tele-mental health support at the secondary level.
Furthermore, CCPS is offering Mental Health First Aid classes for parents with children aged 12 to 18. These classes cover a range of mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Interested parents can sign up for the classes through the CCPS website at CCPS Youth Mental Health First Aid for Parents. Jennifer Conte, coordinator of student intervention programs for CCPS, will be presenting the classes.
CCPS is represented in the lawsuit by law firms Baird Mandalas Brockstedt Federico & Cardea of Baltimore and Delaware and Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, co-lead counsel in national multi-district litigation against the social media companies. These firms are working on a contingency basis, meaning there is no financial burden on the school system.
The legal actions taken by the Charles County Board of Education represent a significant step in a larger national conversation around the role of social media companies in the escalating youth mental health crisis. With educational systems taking the fight to the courtroom, the pressure is mounting for these tech giants to reassess their impact on young users.