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January 11, 2023

Challenging Big Tech for the Children

Social media is a big factor in the youth mental health crisis, and Seattle is suing.

“It has become increasingly clear that many children are burdened by mental health challenges. Our students — and young people everywhere — face unprecedented … struggles that are amplified by the negative impacts of increased screen time, unfiltered content, and potentially addictive properties of social media.” So says Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Brent Jones. His words are backed with actions. The Seattle Public School District has filed a lawsuit against companies such as Google, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, and others.

Big Tech is on trial, finally.

The irony is that it took a liberal school district to take the first positive offensive against the tech giants. The Seattle Public School District accuses the social media companies of being a public menace and being the key cause of the youth mental health crisis that our country is facing. It sees students checking out, acting out, or abusing drugs simply to cope. It also sees the direct decline in their ability to perform academically, and it’s devastating.

This mental health crisis among our youth is not a new phenomenon. It has been a prevalent factor that was made worse by the COVID lockdowns, unfettered social media use, and the overall lack of clarity and direction they are given for life.

This national problem is so obvious that even U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released a report about it in 2021. His data demonstrates a decided uptick in depression (25%) and anxiety (20%) among young people. Suicide attempts in girls have gone up by 51%, and in boys it’s up 4%. The Seattle Public School District claims that 30% of its students are struggling with feelings of hopelessness and depression and have been for over a decade.

On the one hand, Seattle is absolutely right to take on this fight for the children. Big Tech and social media are not at all good or healthy for kids. TikTok in particular has the added spice of being a spyware apparatus for the Chinese government. So compromising is this technology that Congress just moved to ban TikTok from all government devices, but it has yet to enact a nationwide ban.

On the other hand, Washington State and neighboring Oregon still hold plenty of responsibility for the decline in the mental health of their young people. These deep-blue strongholds are bastions of gender ideology. The lie that a man can become a woman and vise versa contributes to kids’ struggles with confusion, loss of identity, and hopelessness. Then add in the environmental propaganda claiming the world is going to end if we don’t stop climate change, the feminist agenda that says men are the scum of the earth and women would be happiest being single and alone, or critical race theory that tells children they are either good or bad based on their skin color.

Sure, social media is profiting off the directionlessness and low self-esteem of our struggling children by peddling often worse solutions or allowing them to self-medicate with mindless scrolling. But at the heart of it, the politics that shape the cultural ideology is an even bigger contributing factor.

The Seattle Public School District anticipates Big Tech invoking its Section 230 protections, but the district has been very clear that it’s not the people on the platforms it is dragging to court; the platforms themselves are unable and/or unwilling to put up the necessary barriers to prevent children from accessing exploitative and harmful material. The plaintiffs also cite that these companies intentionally market to this vulnerable consumer group.

Spokespeople for the various tech companies have enumerated the parental controls they have introduced and put into place, basically putting the blame back on the parents if their kid was sucked into a bad algorithm and introduced to harmful content.

It will be interesting to see how this case develops over the coming weeks.

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