Why Are Dozens of States Taking Legal Action Against Instagram’s Parent Company, Meta?

Social media has become deeply ingrained in our daily lives, with platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp connecting billions of users worldwide. While these services provide undeniable benefits in staying connected with friends and family, recent research has also highlighted some concerning downsides, especially for younger users.

Now, a legal showdown is underway, poised to redefine how social media platforms approach safeguarding vulnerable users and managing personal data for the foreseeable future.

The Impact of Social Media on Teen Mental Health

Young people may be particularly susceptible to both the appealing and harmful aspects of social media. During adolescent development, brain regions associated with seeking attention and feedback from peers become more active. 

Meanwhile, areas related to self-control are still maturing. This imbalance can set teens up for problems. According to clinical psychologist Mary Ann McCabe, teens naturally want to connect with their peers and turn to social media to do so. But it’s easy for them to encounter inappropriate or distressing content accidentally. 

Studies have found clear links between increased social media use and worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety among college students. 

In a recent paper in the American Economic Review, economist Alexey Makarin analyzed how the introduction of platforms like Facebook-led campuses saw mental health issues rise.  Makarin notes more research is needed, and she can’t say for sure that social media does not affect mental health issues.

These concerns reflect data showing social media is now almost universally used by teens aged 13 to 17. Two-thirds of the respondents reported using TikTok, and around 60% use Instagram or Snapchat daily, according to surveys. 

Girls, in particular, average over 3 hours per day on such platforms compared to around 2 hours for boys. 

As depression rates among teens climb, especially for girls, researchers are looking more closely at why and how social media may be playing a role. Understanding the specific impacts on different groups could help create better guidance for teens, parents, and policymakers regarding social media use.

Scott Cunningham, an economist at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, asserts that designing good public policy requires understanding the reasons behind events. Figuring out why social media relates to mental health is key to addressing the issues teens face.

Lawsuits Against Meta Allege Instagram Harmed Youth Mental Health

Social media platforms like Instagram are being accused of prioritizing profits over user safety. 

According to TruLaw, Instagram’s endless scrolling nature and algorithms are said to contribute to excessive social media usage. These features are designed to keep people using the app for as long as possible. This overuse, especially among youth, can negatively impact physical and mental health.

Instagram and its parent company, Meta, are facing lawsuits that claim the platforms have not done enough to create age-appropriate guidelines and enforce them. The aim here is to protect young users from potential harm. 

The lawsuits, including the Instagram lawsuit, want social media companies to take more responsibility for how their features and designs impact mental health, especially children.

People argue that the companies knew their content and interactions could distress users but prioritized earnings over safety. Over 40 states joining lawsuits marks a major challenge for Meta.

The suits specifically target Instagram’s addictive design elements. They aim to get financial penalties, policy changes, and increased oversight for Meta. As social media becomes so ingrained in daily life, these platforms are under pressure to safeguard user well-being – both legally and morally.

How to Encourage Healthy Social Media Habits in Teens?

Collaborative Boundary Setting

When setting rules for media use, it’s important for parents and children to work together to find an agreement that works for everyone. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics provides a free family media planning tool to help start the conversation. Experts recommend discussing each child’s individual needs since one-size-fits-all solutions often fail.

Dr. Vasan, a psychiatrist at Stanford, emphasizes the value of collaboration. In her work developing social media safety plans, she found it’s best when parents understand their child’s perspective.

Ask what changes seem reasonable to them. For example, some teens only want to limit certain platforms rather than give everything up. Others prefer capping daily screen time rather than a full ban.

Finding that middle ground builds trust. It also increases the chances rules will stick. Apps that allow blocking sites and setting limits can support agreed-upon boundaries. The key is coming to an agreement both sides feel heard and committed to upholding. Open communication helps families adapt plans as needs change over time.

Unplug and Recharge

Experts agree social media isn’t inherently bad and can be useful for connecting, but excessive use can negatively impact mental health and relationships. If your child is showing signs of problematic usage, a break may help recalibrate their relationship with technology.

Rather than outright bans, which often face resistance, suggest dedicating one weekday evening or weekend day each week as family tech-free time. This allows bonding without distractions and encourages healthier habits. For some, occasional longer breaks of a few weeks to months may also benefit well-being.

Gauge your child’s reaction and involvement level. Compromise is key. Ask what works best for them – a full day off weekly or limiting certain platforms instead. Involving friends and families can also make moderation a positive social activity.

The goal is mindful, balanced use – not punishment. Come to an understanding together about how to enrich real-world relationships and experiences vs. virtual ones. Regular check-ins allow you to evaluate progress and ensure the approach stays supportive rather than restrictive.

Lead by Example

As a parent, you know that technology may be enticing, but so are other distractions. Your teenagers watch your actions closely. If you make rules but do not follow them, they may feel you are being inconsistent.

Begin by demonstrating responsible behavior. Make quality time with your teens a priority, and restrain yourself from devices during those moments together. Let your actions affirm the boundaries you expect them to maintain.

Leading by positive example can encourage your children to make healthy choices regarding screen time and relationships. By showing restraint yourself, you provide a model of balance they may be more willing to follow as they learn to navigate an increasingly digital world. Your mindful involvement sends the message that real connections matter most.


1. Why are school districts filing lawsuits against social media platforms?

A: Schools, such as those in Seattle, allege that social media companies are exacerbating a mental health crisis among children. TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube have all been cited in some of these legal actions.

2. What causes social media addiction?

A: Social media offers constant and easily accessible rewards in the form of attention from others with little effort required. This creates a cycle of positive reinforcement in the brain, leading individuals to crave likes, shares, and reactions.

3. What is the term for addiction to social media?

A: With the increasing influence of social media in our lives, it’s crucial to recognize its adverse effects on mental health. Social Media Disorder (SMD) is a growing issue characterized by the excessive and detrimental use of social media platforms, impacting both physical and mental well-being.

While the legal battles are still unfolding, this may be an opportunity for social media platforms and lawmakers to work together on sensible policies. These policies should aim to protect the most vulnerable users while preserving the benefits of digital connection. The well-being of children and teens should be the top priority as new standards are determined.

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