Rockingham County Schools joins national lawsuit against social media companies over youth mental health crisis

EDEN, NC (WGHP) Rockingham County Schools announced that the school district will join a nationwide lawsuit against several major social media platforms and the harm they cause to children’s mental health.

In 2023 alone, hundreds of school districts filed lawsuits against social media platforms and their parent companies, including Facebook and Instagram owner Meta, Snapchat owner Snap , TikTok owner ByteDance and YouTube owner Google. A simple search of the phrase “schools suing social media” will bring up results for several lawsuits in the same vein.

The effort is to try to change the behavior of social media companies and to try and compensate school boards for their losses, said Janet Ward Black, a lawyer involved in the case against the companies.

Baird, Mandalas, Brockstedt and Federico, which is representing the school districts in the case, said more than 200 school districts have filed. In North Carolina, those include Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Clinton City Schools, Cumberland County Schools, Johnston County Public Schools, Moore County Schools, Pitt County Schools, Robeson County Public Schools, Union County Public Schools, Wayne County Public Schools and Wilson County Schools.

It’s hard enough to educate young children as it is today … When you have these distractions … that lead to levels of addiction, causing young people to potentially commit suicide, develop eating disorders, Anxious, sad, it adds to the burden on school systems to educate our children, Black said.

In October, Reuters reported that several states and the District of Columbia have sued Meta Platforms and Instagram over their addictiveness to youth.

In November, a federal judge shot down efforts by major companies Facebook and Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat to dismiss the nationwide lawsuit, according to Reuters.

Rockingham County Schools announced its intention to become the latest school district to join the lawsuit against those companies on Wednesday.

The school district’s statement cited “the link between excessive use of social media and adverse mental health effects, including increased anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness and decreased self-esteem,” among youth

The RCS also accuses social media platforms of fueling addiction through “sophisticated algorithms designed to maximize user engagement.”

Superintendent John O. Stover III said the school district’s goal is to raise awareness of the platforms’ impact on students and send a message to major companies.

We joined the lawsuit against the Snap, TikTok, ByteDance, Google/YouTube and Meta platforms to both raise awareness of the insidious effects on our students of the constant social pressure that has become the norm, as well as, send message to both those companies. should take enforcement of their own standards more seriously and do more than talk nonsense about their commitment to protecting students.

Furthermore, the point of us joining the lawsuit is not to get extra funding but to protect our students. However if we are awarded any damages as a result of this suit, Rockingham County Schools will allocate any monetary award to do the job that the social media companies should be doing themselves by doubling our efforts to raise awareness of the harmful effects of 24/7 access to these platforms on the overall mental health and well-being of students.

Superintendent John O. Stover III

You can read the school district’s full statement below:

As educators and stewards of our children’s welfare, we recognize and deeply concern ourselves with the detrimental effects of social media on the mental health and overall development of our students. Many studies have revealed a link between excessive use of social media and adverse effects on mental health, including increased anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness and decreased self-esteem in young individuals.

The addictive nature of social media platforms is often fueled by sophisticated algorithms designed to maximize user engagement. These algorithms are engineered to capture and retain attention by using various techniques such as personalized content feeds, notifications and ‘likes’ that create an environment that encourages long and frequent usage.

As social media platforms offer connection and avenues for expression, we must teach our children about responsible and balanced use. At Rockingham County Schools, we encourage parents, educators and policymakers to join us in fostering a supportive environment that emphasizes mindful digital engagement while promoting measures that prioritize the well-being of our children.

Rockingham County Schools Superintendent John O. Stover III, Ed.D. that said, we joined the lawsuit against the Snap, TikTok, ByteDance, Google/YouTube and Meta platforms to both raise awareness of the insidious effects on our students of the constant social pressure that has become the norm, as well as, send a message to them. companies they should take enforcement of their own standards more seriously and do more than spout platitudes about their commitment to protecting students. Furthermore, the point of us joining the lawsuit is not to get additional funding but to protect our students. However if we are awarded any damages as a result of this suit, Rockingham County Schools will allocate any monetary award to do the job that the social media companies should be doing themselves by duplicating our efforts to raise awareness of the harmful effects of 24 /7 access to these platforms on the general mental health and well-being of students.

For more information or questions, please feel free to contact RCS Superintendent, Shawn Stover, at jstover@rock.k12.nc.us or RCS Director of Safety & PIO, Sean Gladieux, at 336-627-2602 or spgladieux@rock. k12.nc.us.

Rockingham County Schools Statement on Joining Social Media Lawsuit

Both Ward Black Law and Rockingham County Schools are involved in a suit against Juul, which is a popular vape device seen targeting youth with bright colors and fun flavors.

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They stopped certain behaviors such as making flavors like crme brule or mango, Black said.

The case will move forward in California where the social media companies are headquartered.

The school districts are not paying any money to be involved in this suit. All this is based on a contingency fee. and Stover said many districts will put the money they’re awarded into mental health services for students.

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