Across the country, concerns about social media addiction are growing. Lawsuits have been filed claiming Silicon Valley’s algorithms are endangering young people and causing real harm. (1)
These lawsuits were grouped together into a multidistrict litigation (MDL). James Bilsborrow, Weitz & Luxenberg practice group co-chair, was appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee Membership for the Social Media Adolescent Addiction/Personal Injury Products Liability Litigation MDL in November of 2022.
How Does Social Media Cause Addiction?
Social media platforms want you to keep checking your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. To do this, they aim to provide “rewarding experiences that generate dopamine in the brain.” (2)
Dopamine is the same substance your brains produce when you eat cake or have sex. That is your brain’s way of giving you a really good feeling — so you want more. And to get this rush, you start checking your social media accounts more and more often. (3)
Overusing social media poses a greater danger to children because their developing brains are more impressionable. In teenagers, their reward system tends to become even more activated, but their self-control doesn’t develop fully until around age 21. (4)
Social Media Addiction in Teens
“Starting around age 10, children’s brains undergo a fundamental shift that spurs them to seek social rewards, including attention and approval from their peers.” Children and teens are increasingly drawn to social media for “entertainment and connection.” (5)
However, the biology of your child or teen may make them particularly vulnerable to social media. “This biological vulnerability” puts young people at risk of developing body image issues. (6)
Concerns About Body Image
In worst-case scenarios, children and teens can be so obsessed with their body image they develop eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Other very real concerns include depression, sleep deprivation, and suicide. (7)
Body image concerns can lead to a variety of eating disorders, including:
- Body dysmorphia.
- Purging (vomiting, laxative or diuretic use, excessive exercise).
- Attempted suicide.
Chemical Rush from Social Media
Unlike adults, “Teens have a less fixed sense of self.” They tend to rely more on feedback from their peers. Also, children and young adults “have a less mature prefrontal cortex.” This area of the brain “regulates emotional responses to social rewards.” (8)
“Social media use, just as use of alcohol or drugs, can highjack the dopaminergic pathways more quickly and reliably than naturally derived awards such as studying hard and getting a good grade.” What this means is working hard to get good grades is slow to send a rush of feel-good reward chemicals. On the other hand, checking Snapchat or other social media platforms can give “a rush of dopamine that provides immediate gratification.” (9)
The “almost instant dopamine rush becomes addictive and can result in depression, anxiety, and other mental illness.” (10)
If your child has been harmed due to social media addiction, contact us today to understand your legal rights.
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How Social Media Addiction Can Be Harmful
“There are many components of excessive social media usage that can contribute to psychological issues whether in the short-term or later on in life. Addiction is the most threatening of these issues.” (11)
Other common concerns linked to excessive social media use include: (12)
- Feelings of loneliness.
- Long-term anxiety.
- Attention deficit disorders.
- Food addiction.
- Severe isolation.
“Social media creates an environment where people compare themselves with each other, which can be harmful for mental well-being. Social media addiction” also causes dissatisfaction with life. (13)
Increased self-consciousness may also lead to social anxiety disorder. Another concern is cyber bullying. Cyber bullying can lead to suicide. (14)
Social Media Addiction and Mental Health
Teens who use social media more than three hours a day “may be at heightened risk of mental health problems.” And the “obsessive use of social media by adolescents and teens can lead to … impulsive disorder, disruption of proper mental functions, [and] paranoia.” (15)
Social media can also put a lot of pressure on teens “to create the stereotype that others want to see.” They may take extreme measures to be seen as popular. This pressure can lead to depression. (16)
Risks from Social Media Platforms
Depression is not limited to use of Facebook. Other social networking sites can also cause psychological problems. In fact, “individuals who are involved in social media, games, texts, mobile phones, etc. are more likely to experience depression.” (17)
According to the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) investigated Facebook. WSJ found Facebook knew that “mental health risks” were “linked to the use of its Instagram app but kept those findings secret.” Also, it seems use of “Instagram worsened body image issues for one in three teenage girls, and all teenage users of the app linked it to experiences of anxiety and depression.” (18)
“Social media is criticized for being addictive by design and for its role in the spread of misinformation.” Research suggests “how much someone engages with photo-related activities like posting and sharing photos on Facebook or Instagram is associated with less body acceptance and more obsessing about appearance.” (19)
Who Can File a Social Media Addiction Lawsuit?
If your child developed a significant psychological or mental disorder after becoming addicted to a social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, you may want to file a lawsuit.
Even worse, if your child attempted to commit suicide or died due to the harmful effects of social media, you may be eligible to join our ongoing lawsuits.
Weitz & Luxenberg is investigating cases where families were harmed by the algorithm and actions of social media companies. Our lawsuits are based on these claims:
- Social media platforms intentionally design their products to maximize engagement; they are more concerned about making money than user interest or safety.
- Facebook, Instagram, and others have been fully aware their products are addicting teenagers and contributing to their mental health problems.
- Social media platforms take insufficient steps to ensure minors are not interacting with predatory adults.
Multiple lawsuits are “alleging that social media hubs are intentionally designed to foster addiction, which causes mental health problems for children.” The lawsuits also state these social media companies “fail to warn minor users and their parents about the risks posed by the products.” (20)
You may be able to join with others in seeking justice for your loved one.
Weitz & Luxenberg has filed lawsuits against several companies for causing social media addiction and harm to users, especially teens. These corporations we are suing include Meta Platforms, Inc., formerly known as Facebook, as well as Snap, TikTok, and ByteDance.
We want to help families who have suffered severe harm due to these social media platforms and their actions. Examples of the severe harm caused include eating disorders, self-harm, attempted suicide, or even death.
For more information about filing your own lawsuit, please contact us. We can help you consider your legal options.
How W&L Can Help
Weitz & Luxenberg’s Consumer Protection team is fighting against negligent, irresponsible social media companies. These corporations should not be endangering lives in their efforts to make money — particularly the lives of your children and other young adults.
W&L is a national firm with a reputation of standing up to large companies when their actions and choices harm others. We have the resources and are fully prepared to take this fight as far as it needs to go to secure justice for our clients. And we have a solid history of winning.
Here are a few examples of our successes:
- Weitz & Luxenberg achieved a settlement with Monsanto on behalf of nearly 100,000 people who were diagnosed with cancer after being exposed to Roundup, a weedkiller.
- Weitz & Luxenberg helped secure a $423 million settlement against roughly a dozen of the nation’s largest oil companies on behalf of public water systems across the country with contaminated water.
- Weitz & Luxenberg worked to help secure a $20.8 billion settlement on behalf of hundreds of thousands of victims of the BP Gulf Oil Spill.