Arizona among dozens of states suing Meta over social media impact on youth mental health
Dozens of US states, including Arizona, are suing Meta Platforms Inc. for harming young people’s mental health by knowingly designing features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to the platforms. The lawsuit filed by 33 states in federal court in California also claims Meta routinely collects data on children under 13 without their parents’ consent, in violation of federal law.
The broad-ranging federal suit is the result of an investigation led by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general. It follows damning allegations, first reported by The Wall Street Journal in 2021, based on the Meta’s own research that found that the company knew about the harms Instagram can cause teenagers — especially teen girls — when it comes to mental health and body image issues.
The suits seek financial damages and restitution and an end to Meta’s practices that are in violation of the law.
“Kids and teenagers are suffering from record levels of poor mental health and social media companies like Meta are to blame,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement. “Meta has profited from children’s pain by intentionally designing its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem.”
In a statement, Meta said it shares “the attorneys general’s commitment to providing teens with safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families.”
The use of social media among teens is nearly universal in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. Almost all teens ages 13 to 17 in the U.S. report using a social media platform, with about a third saying they use social media “almost constantly,” according to the Pew Research Center.
To comply with federal regulation, social media companies ban kids under 13 from signing up to their platforms — but children have been shown to easily get around the bans, both with and without their parents’ consent, and many younger kids have social media accounts. The states’ complaint says Meta knowingly violated this law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, by collecting data on children without informing and getting permission from their parents.
Other measures social platforms have taken to address concerns about children’s mental health are also easily circumvented.