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Can social media be held accountable for poor mental health?

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Fashion |OPINION

Image: Social media via Pexels

Hundreds of private lawsuits have been filed against social media networks in the US, which depict a toxic social media landscape that is harmful to young people. The lawsuits aim to hold social media platforms accountable for the detrimental effects on young people's mental health. Over 200 suits have been joined together in one class action lawsuit filed in March, which included platforms such as TikTok parent ByteDance, Facebook and Instagram parent Meta, Google for YouTube, and Snap. These platforms are being held responsible for their harmful effects while benefiting from huge advertising profits.

While the social media platforms argue that responsible use lies with parents, educators, and users themselves, the issues of cyberbullying, comparison and self-esteem, sleep deprivation, privacy and security, grooming, and reduced face-to-face communication are just some of the pitfalls of social media use. The lawsuit includes harrowing stories of a nine-year-old boy uploading a nude image of himself after watching YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat videos, and a 16-year-old girl developing eating disorders after becoming obsessed with her body image after getting hooked on Instagram, reported El Pais.

Unrealistic comparison expectations

Social media platforms can create unrealistic expectations and idealized versions of people's lives, causing teenagers to compare themselves unfavorably to others and develop low self-esteem and body image issues. Additionally, social media poses a risk to young people's privacy and security, as they may be exposed to inappropriate content or share personal information that could be used against them.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report, Youth Risk Behaviour, there is a trend towards declining mental health for America's teenagers. A study published in the Clinical Psychological Science journal found that increased social media use was linked to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness among adolescents. Another study, published in the Computers in Human Behaviour journal, found that social media use can lead to decreased self-esteem and body image issues among young women, particularly those who spend a lot of time comparing themselves to others online.

The supreme court will decide in June if there is any legal merit to the suits. A key consideration will be whether the platforms can be held accountable for third-party content. It will be difficult to prove if a platform was responsible for causing suicide or radicalizing a young person after watching videos or seeing images. Whether or not the design or algorithm of the platforms prompt a negative effect on mental health will be at the core of these cases.

Article source: El Pais

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