Aggressive cyberbullying, influencers promoting disordered eating, and built-in algorithms designed to keep the most toxic and sensational content going viral are just a few examples of the problems social media sites can pose. Children and teens are particularly susceptible to these problems.
Social media lawsuit cases are part of a complex and developing area of law. As more information comes to light about the algorithms, features, and designs social media companies use in their products, more families are taking action to hold these companies accountable. A social media law firm like Console & Associates, P.C. can help explain to parents and other family members what legal rights and options are available to them when social media sites have caused harm to a child or teen user.
Our social media lawyers are seeking to interview families affected by social media addiction and harm about any potential legal recourse that may be available to them. The consultation is free and confidential—just call (866) 778-5500 today.
The mental health effects of social media exposure and addiction may apply to users in every demographic category. The features and algorithms that power social media sites often make use of addictive psychological tactics that affect the human brain in specific ways to train users to spend more and more of their lives engaging with social media.
Adolescent and young adult usage of social media sites are of particular concern. Changes in the brain that occur in the course of normal development mean that young people are more vulnerable to the way social media use impacts the rewards center of the brain than adults whose brains are fully developed, according to the American Psychological Association.
Popular social media sites like Facebook have been accused of “intentionally targeting children” despite the increased risk of social media harm, according to NPR.
Most of the social media legal cases currently being filed pertain to the harm social media usage has caused to children, teens, and young adults. Parents and families are often the ones seeking to hold these companies accountable, especially when the child has sustained serious mental health effects or suffered physical harm.
The potential negative mental health effects of social media overuse and addiction may include new or worsening depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, self-harm, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Comparing your own real life to the highlight reel that other people post on social media sites as representations of their lives can leave you feeling deflated.
Unfortunately, these unwanted emotions aren’t always fleeting feelings of jealousy or sadness. They can develop into more chronic and serious mood and mental health disorders that affect an individual’s functioning in much more substantial ways. Researchers have linked excessive and problematic social media usage to depression and anxiety.
A systematic review of research on social media and mental health published in the International Journal of Adolescence and Youth in 2020 found that exposure to social media—as measured by time spent, activity, investment, and addiction—was “correlated with depression, anxiety and psychological distress.”
One specific area of wellbeing that social media can affect, particularly among child and teen users, is body image. Between cyberbullying in the form of body-shaming comments, posts that promote unrealistic body image expectations, and influencers peddling misguided or downright dangerous health products and advice, social media users are inundated with content that can leave them feeling dissatisfied with their body image.
Aside from contributing to lower self-esteem and the development of depression and anxiety, a person’s negative body image affected by social media may give rise to disordered eating patterns, obsessive attitudes about dieting and exercise, and other unhealthy behaviors. Clinically diagnosable eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder can cause both mental and physical harm. A severe eating disorder can be life-threatening.
In some instances, social media use can reach the level of addiction. A person who becomes addicted to social media sites persists in using social media channels excessively even after this overuse starts negatively impacting their life.
Parents often identify social media addiction based on their teens’ excessive overuse of social media sites. The child might be glued to their phone during real-world activities and social interactions or choose to scroll on social media instead of participating in the hobbies and activities they used to enjoy. The child’s grades may suffer, and they may neglect their chores or perform poorly at work.
Sometimes a person who is addicted to social media may become sleep-deprived due to late-night scrolling or develop disordered eating patterns as a result of poor body image and influencers’ unhealthy advice. Other social media addiction symptoms and side effects include self-esteem issues that can result from comparing their own reality to the heavily filtered and embellished versions of reality posted by other users.
Intentional self-harm behaviors have also been linked to social media exposure and addiction. Self-harm, which may include cutting, burning, self-mutilation, and other forms of self-injury, is intentionally inflicted. Deliberately harming oneself is often an attempt to deal with emotional pain and anger, according to Mayo Clinic.
Self-harm behavior can lead to serious injuries, such as broken bones, infections, and permanent damage to nerves, muscles, and tendons. Severe instances of self-harm may even lead to permanent numbness or weakness, multi-organ damage, limb loss, accidental death, or suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Beyond the physical aspects of injuries, self-harm behaviors can lead to worsening self-esteem and self-image, increasing feelings of shame and guilt, feelings of social isolation, and trouble in interpersonal relationships—all of which can be made worse by the physical side effects of permanent scarring.
The most devastating and irreparable harm that may be wrought by social media exposure is suicide.
It’s often hard for a parent to wrap their heads around the tragic reality that their child took steps to intentionally inflict on themselves fatal harm, or that something as seemingly simple as a social media website could be to blame.
There are many potential signs that could indicate that a person may be at risk of attempting suicide. Symptoms of depression, anxiety, or addiction could be a cause for concern. In particular, parents should seek help for their child immediately upon observing behaviors such as threatening or joking about suicide, giving away possessions, writing suicide notes, making statements about dying or “going away,” or showing any sign of planning to take suicidal actions.
If you suspect that your child—or anyone you love—could be at risk of attempting suicide, get help immediately by calling 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Parents and family members should know that they aren’t to blame for their loved one’s suicide. The signs that a person may be thinking about ending their life can be extremely subtle, and in some cases, the person experiencing suicidal ideation may have intentionally hidden these feelings and behaviors from those around them.
Accountability for the tragedy of a suicide prompted by social media exposure or addiction rests on cyberbullies, creators of dangerous content, and the social media companies that design their sites to be addictive.
In recent years, social media companies like Meta Platforms Inc.(the owner of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp) and Snap Inc. (the owner of Snapchat) have faced lawsuits over the harm children, teens, and young adults have suffered that is linked with social media exposure and addiction.
These lawsuits have arisen in part due to the testimony of a Facebook whistleblower, former data scientist Frances Haugen. In a Congressional hearing, Haugen testified that the company was controlling young people for profit and making algorithm changes that, by rewarding engagement, can amplify the spread of misinformation and “sensational content,” as NPR reported.
Further, social media companies have been accused of failing to protect young, vulnerable, and at-risk users. Meta, in particular, is alleged to have kept secret research findings that, in the words of NPR, “illuminated the harms of Facebook products.”
Social media companies shouldn’t be allowed to get away with preying on children and teenagers through the use of algorithms based on addictive psychological tactics and dangerous features—yet that’s exactly what many social media companies are accused of doing in the ongoing lawsuits they are facing.
Now the parents and families of children harmed by social media are taking action. Social media lawsuit claims are becoming more prevalent. Some states, like California, are proposing legislation that could expand opportunities to hold social media companies legally accountable for other types of harm, such as social media addiction.
Suing social media companies for addiction, mental health problems, and other types of harm is an evolving area of law. Figuring out your legal rights and options as they pertain to a social media lawsuit can seem daunting. A social media lawyer can help you understand the avenues for legal recourse that are available in your family’s unique situation. Our social media lawyers are reviewing cases like yours at no cost and offering professional legal representation on a no-win, no-fee basis.
For a free consultation, call (866) 778-5500 today.