Like most young Americans, Naomi Charles was still a minor when she first started using social media. Not long after, she says she was addicted.
Facebook, now Meta, is now a leader in another social media trend — lawsuits claiming the company built algorithms in its platforms that lure young people into a destructive addiction.
YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are the most popular online platforms among teens. Fully 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online 'almost constantly'
Eight complaints filed in courthouses across the US over the last week allege that excessive exposure to platforms including Facebook and Instagram has led to attempted or actual suicides, eating disorders and sleeplessness, among other issues.
“These applications could have been designed to minimize potential harm, but instead, a decision was made to aggressively addict adolescents in the name of corporate profits,” attorney from the law firm that drafted the suits, said in a statement.
The complaints add to a spurt of recent cases against Meta and Snap Inc., including some filed by parents whose children took their own lives. The litigation follows a former Facebook employee’s high-profile testimony in Congress that the company refused to take responsibility for harming the mental health of its youngest users.
A Meta spokesperson declined to comment on the litigation but noted that the company has developed tools for parents to keep track of their children’s activity on Instagram and set time limits. Meta also offers “Take A Break” reminders that nudge users to take a moment away from social media.
In addition, the company is providing resources specific to eating disorders, making potentially sensitive content harder to find and developing the use of artificial intelligence to make sure that children under 13 can’t sign up for Facebook or Instagram, according to the spokesperson.
One of the new suits was filed by Naomi Charles, a 22-year-old woman who says she started using Meta platforms when she was a minor and that her addiction led to her attempting suicide.
Meta “misrepresented the safety, utility, and non-addictive properties of their products,” according to the complaint in Miami federal court.
Charles, like the other users, is seeking monetary damages to compensate for mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and costs of hospitalization and medical bills.
The claims in the suits include defective design, failure to warn, fraud and negligence. The complaints were filed in federal courts in Texas, Tennessee, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Missouri.
Social Media Addiction Symptoms
The symptoms of social media addiction among minors are the same as the symptoms of addictive gaming listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the manual used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental disorders:
- Preoccupation with social media and withdrawal symptoms (sadness, anxiety, irritability) when the device is taken away or use is not possible.
- The need to spend more time using social media to satisfy the urge.
- Inability to reduce social media usage or unsuccessful attempts to quit.
- Giving up other activities or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities due to social media usage.
- Continuing to use social media despite problems.
- Deceiving family members or others about the amount of time spent on social media.
- Using social media to relieve negative moods, such as guilt or hopelessness.
- Jeopardizing school or work performance or relationships due to social media usage.
“I came forward because I recognized a frightening truth: almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook. The company’s leadership keeps vital information from the public, the U.S. government, its shareholders, and governments around the world.”
Data Scientist and Facebook Whistleblower Frances Hagen in testimony to U.S. Senate Committee
If you or your child has attempted suicide, experienced anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or self-harm, due to social media addiction, we can help.
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