January 13, 2023

Seattle Public Schools sues social media giants in response to student mental health crisis

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) recently filed a lawsuit against TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Snap, Instagram, and their parent companies for using unethical tactics that lead to a global mental health crisis in students. In an effort to obtain counselors and financial resources to combat this crisis, SPS noted that they’ve seen a drastic increase in mental health problems related to social media, as well as difficulty getting students to strike a balance with their devices. 

Mental health issues are rising in schools

On Friday, Jan. 6th, SPS filed a lawsuit against major social media platforms for their efforts in attracting young students to their sites, claiming they have little in place to protect student safety. The lawsuit states that the majority of social media platforms are designed to attract the attention of students and make the internet an addictive place for Gen Z to spend their time.

As a result, SPS noted that they’ve struggled to keep students’ attention with the increased use of their devices. Schools across the county reported that they’ve seen students negatively affected by what they’ve seen online in and out of the classroom. To support their argument, SPS pulled a survey they conducted in 2019 which discovered that since 2009, 30% of students found themselves feeling “so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that [they] stopped doing some usual activities.”

Shortly afterward, students within SPS shared their thoughts on the lawsuit. One student shared, “The district, before they carry out a lawsuit which is very expensive, they should have looked inward and addressed the problems that are actually in our schools that they themselves can solve.” Many students believe that the lawsuit is hiding other issues within the school system, such as the need for more mental health counselors.

With minimal resources in place to support students, and the rise of social media use since the pandemic, SPS and many other schools across the country are struggling to combat the mental health crisis in students. To help fuel students’ health, happiness, and future success, we’re exploring ways educators can empower students to strike a balance between social media and tech. Let’s dive in:

Empowering students to strike a balance 

Striking a balance with technology is not always easy, especially since social media apps deliberately use methods and features that are designed to capture and keep our attention. Have you ever caught yourself scrolling online for hours when you originally opened your phone to check one thing? It happens to the best of us, but there are steps we can equip ourselves and our students with to avoid falling into this trap. Here are ways you can empower your students to strike a balance, in and out of the classroom: 

  • Prioritize! This is one of the most important tips for not letting social media overtake your day. Encourage students to create a list of what they want to accomplish in a day to help them set and achieve goals.
  • Enable “Do Not Disturb” when working. Share the benefits of enabling “Do Not Disturb” when working with students. It will help minimize distractions and allow more to get done during the day. 
  • Dedicate tech-free break periods. We all need a break from our devices, especially since so much of what we do is digitalized now. Encourage students to block out time each day to take breaks, either to relax or work on hobbies they enjoy. 
  • Put away screens at least 30 minutes before bed. Not only does the blue light from screens negatively affect our sleep cycle, but it serves as another distraction right before bed. Encourage students to turn their devices off or put them in another room before they go to sleep.

Explore how tech giants use features to keep our attention and empower students to analyze how their own screen time stats align with their goals in our #WinAtSocial Strike A Balance Lesson: Debating Tech Giants’ Newest Features and the Science of Screen Time. Not a partner but want to access this lesson? Contact us to find out how to bring this lesson and more to your school.

Always stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest trends online by subscribing to our newsletter where we talk about trending tech and social media news weekly! In the meantime, check out our Instagram and TikTok @thesocialinst for tips, trends, and highlights when it comes to social media. 

The Social Institute (TSI) is the leader in understanding student experiences and creator of #WinAtSocial, a gamified, online learning platform that equips students, educators, and families to navigate social experiences — online and offline — in healthy ways. Our unique, student-respected approach incorporates topics like social media, technology use, and current events that have a significant impact on student well-being. Lessons teach life skills for the modern day to inspire high-character decisions that support the health, happiness, and future success of students, while capturing data that provides insights to school leaders to inform school policy and communications, and enable high-impact teaching and a healthy learning environment. For schools, our turnkey technology allows for easy implementation and a comprehensive game plan to support the well-being of school communities. For schools, our turnkey technology allows for easy implementation and a comprehensive game plan to support the well-being of school communities.