Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education sues social media companies over mental health impacts

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education is the newest school district to file a lawsuit against multiple social media giants in the wake of reports that they have negative effects on students’ mental health.

The board filed the lawsuit Friday against Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram), Google (owner of YouTube), ByteDance (owner of TikTok), and Snap Inc. (owner of Snapchat), saying their products have been “causing harm to students, damaging youth mental health, and burdening school districts,” according to a news release Friday.

Channel 9 obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which is nearly 200 pages long. It uses studies to outline how social media algorithms affect students’ perceptions of physical appearances. It also claims that the companies engage in tactics to get students addicted to their products, including screenshots of YouTube playlists and Instagram feeds.

For the Charlotte school board, its members say that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has had a challenge of providing mental health resources to the student body “amid rising rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation,” a statement said.

“The Board’s decision to take legal action reflects our unwavering commitment to the welfare of our students and to ensure that social media corporations are held responsible for their contribution to the mental health challenges faced by CMS students,” said Elyse Dashew, the board’s chairperson in a statement.

The board is being represented by at least four law firms, according to court documents. Several of these firms are also representing other districts in a massive multi-district lawsuit that was filed on March 10.

Several districts in South Carolina, including Clover and Fort Mill, have also sued the tech giants, Channel 9 previously reported.

Channel 9 reached out to all four companies for a comment on Friday.

So far, Google is the only company to respond to Channel 9′s request.

“Protecting kids across our platforms has always been core to our work. In collaboration with child development specialists, we have built age-appropriate experiences for kids and families on YouTube, and provide parents with robust controls,” said Google spokesperson José Castañeda. “The allegations in this complaint are simply not true.”

>>You can find a county-by-county guide to mental health resources at this link.

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Andrew McMillan, wsoctv.com

Andrew McMillan is the Digital Content Manager for WSOC-TV.