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Seattle’s public school system recently filed a lawsuit against Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube. The argument is that the popular social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube, are to blame for students’ negative emotional and mental health states, making it more difficult to educate students. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects platforms from being liable for what third parties post. However, the school argues that these platforms are promoting damaging content with their algorithms. They are basing their case on the state public nuisance law. The school will have to show that social media was the cause of the adverse effects on students (Johnson).
Children nowadays are growing up in the age of technology, where it has become improbable that a teen in 2023 does not have some form of social media. But social media is not all sunshine and rainbows. There is a side of social media that is negatively affecting teens in particular. Firstly, social media can be a constant distraction. It is so easy to spend hours scrolling through Instagram feeds or watching YouTube videos, neglecting everyday responsibilities and real-life relationships with friends and family. Additionally, notifications have provided more opportunities to stop what you are doing and pick up your phone, where one’s attention could be drawn to other eye-catching social media posts, sending them down the addictive rabbit hole. This, in turn, could cause a lack of sleep, negatively affecting their health.
Furthermore, social media could negatively affect teens’ mental health. According to a study in 2019, more than 6,500 12 to 15-year-olds in the U.S. who spent three or more hours on social media were more likely to develop mental health issues (Teens). Social media can be a place for constant comparison, making it easy for one to believe that other people’s lives are much better than their own, causing self-esteem issues and discontentment with their selves and their lives. Additionally, social media can be a place for bullying and spreading harmful rumors.
Even though there are negative side effects, I believe there is a positive side to social media. It can allow teens to communicate more easily with their friends and family, strengthening and forming new connections. This could prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness. Also, social media can be a platform for those who might not have a voice in their real life and could help bring to people’s attention important issues in the world that they could help through fundraisers and campaigns. Lastly, it is a setting where people can be creative and share their passions and talents and grow and learn from each other (Gordon).
I believe that social media has become a real issue for people, especially teens, and changes need to be made to lessen the negative effects. Filtering out harmful content could be the first step in improvement. Social media companies pushing damaging content to teens through their algorithms needs to be addressed and fixed, and I think that this lawsuit is successfully bringing the detrimental effects to media users’ attention.
Hannah Rapier, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s media law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question: "Seattle's public school system filed a lawsuit against Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube alleging their platforms have a negative impact on students' mental health and claiming that has impeded the ability of its schools “to fulfill its educational mission.” Do you agree?" Hannah is an advertising major.
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