Peninsula School District Suing TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat on Behalf of Students

NBC Universal, Inc.

A Bay Area school district is now suing three of the world's most popular social networks.

The San Mateo County Board of Education filed a lawsuit Wednesday, claiming TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat are hazardous to the health of their young students.

Students like Savannah Arreola said they use social media for good things, like staying in touch with friends.

"I get to see what they're doing, and kind of feel like I'm a part of their life that way," she said. 

But they also admit that scrolling can get addictive.

"I definitely track my screen time, and it's pretty appalling," said another student.

The San Mateo School District is concerned enough to file a lawsuit claiming those social media apps are addictive and damaging to the mental health of many students.

"No one gets off the hook for the health and well-being of our young people,” said Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee.

She said the lawsuit, filed by Cotchett, Pitre, and McCarthy of Burlingame says the addiction comes from algorithms that can be damaging to students, and has led to suicidal behavior, and depression.

"And when we try to work with social media companies to remove content that could be directly harming a child, it's very difficult,” said Magee.

One social media watcher says the problem is content, and chaotic content leads to profits.

"You can lower the temperature of the algorithm if you want, but if you do that, if you have less interesting content, you're gonna have less people going to that website, you'll have less advertisements, less money,” said Ahmed Banafa, tech analyst at San Jose State University.

The other concern is that young people flat out love it. 

"It's addictive, you could say, but kind of in a good way. I look at funny pictures of cats, and that brings you joy,” said student Parker Dennis.

NBC Bay Area reached out to TikTok, Google and Snapchat and all three declined to comment directly on the lawsuit, but say they have built in features to limit screen time, increase parental abilities to better control what their kids see, and are working with mental health officials to try to improve their products.

Contact Us