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Exploring the Impact of Social Media on Youth Addiction and Safety Concerns Amid Meta’s Legal Challenges

By Frederick Schenk

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images


Last October, 41 states along with the District of Columbia, filed a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, in which the state attorneys general alleged that Meta knowingly used its platforms to cause children to habitually use them, despite the company’s claim that its social media platforms were safe for adolescents and young adults.
“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage and ultimately ensnare youth and teens,” the states said in their lawsuit filed in federal court. “Its motive is profit.”

The accusations in the lawsuit raise profound questions about adolescent behaviors. Behavioral experts are increasingly suspicious that young people are becoming addicted to social media and the internet. According to the New York Times: “Experts who study internet use say that the magnetic allure of social media arises from the way the content plays to our neurological impulses and wiring, such that consumers find it hard to turn away from the incoming stream of information.”

David Greenfield, a psychologist and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in West Hartford, Conn., said the devices lure users with some powerful tactics. One is “intermittent reinforcement,” which creates the idea that a user could get a reward at any time. But when the reward comes is unpredictable. “Just like a slot machine,” he said. As with a slot machine, users are beckoned with lights and sounds but, even more powerful, information and reward tailored to a user’s interests and tastes. Greenfield notes that “young people are particularly at risk, because the brain regions that are involved in resisting temptation and reward are not nearly as developed in children and teenagers as in adults. “They’re all about impulse and not a lot about the control of that impulse,”
Moreover, he said, the adolescent brain is especially attuned to social connections, and “social media is all a perfect opportunity to connect with other people.”

In response to the lawsuit, Meta responded with a statement by saying “We’re disappointed that instead of working productively with companies across the industry to create clear, age-appropriate standards for the many apps teens use, the attorneys general have chosen this path.” During a recent Senate Judiciary hearing, Mark Zuckerberg was offered an opportunity to apologize to the parents in attendance, many of whom had lost a child due to bullying and other social media influences which led to the young people committing suicide. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo) invited Mr. Zuckerberg to apologize to the parents and to the young people in the audience who had suffered adverse health conditions due to social media addiction. As parents held up photos of their children, Zuckerberg’s response to the audience was to say: “I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through…No one should go through what you and your families have suffered”. He then pivoted to suggesting that Meta is “going to continue doing industry leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things that your families have had to suffer”.

At no time did Mr. Zuckerberg say that he apologized nor that he felt any sense of responsibility for any of the losses suffered by those in the audience.

The case filed will likely take several years before it is resolved. In the meantime, until the industry voluntarily brings about necessary changes, parents must make sure that they are regularly monitoring their children’s use of the internet and having conversations with them about what they may watch and read and what is inappropriate content.


What are your legal options as a victim or the family of a victim who has suffered due to Social Media exploitative ways?

CaseyGerry has been dedicated to this cause for several years. We have stood up to behemoth online companies that were also protected from liability and successfully obtained an historic ruling against Amazon, winning for our client the justice she deserved. Read about the Amazon case here.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by social media addiction, we encourage you to learn more about how our social media addiction lawyers can help, or call our law office at 619-304-2862.





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