MINNEAPOLIS — Dozens of states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, are suing Meta, the tech giant that owns the social media apps Facebook and Instagram.
The lawsuit claims the apps harm young people’s mental health by knowingly designing features that are addictive. Local experts say this lawsuit could have a huge impact.
We’re all so familiar with that feeling, that there’s an acronym for it – FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out.
But doctors say that fear is so pervasive, that some young people are now addicted to social media.
“If you’re not on social media, if you’re not on Tik Tok, if you’re not checking the Snapchats, there’s different apps, like be real, if you don’t respond, within two minutes, you get excluded for the day for 24 hours,” said Marguerite Ohrtman with the University of Minnesota. “Like some of these apps are like set up so that you want to be on, you need to be on in order to stay connected and relevant.”
Dr. Tan Ngo, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation said “the brain for an adolescent is set up to be able to fall into these traps of addiction. Getting positive reinforcement from the like button getting clicked. feedback mechanisms that truly lead someone to want to come back to it, to have these little squirts of dopamine.”
That’s why 42 states have joined to, alleging apps like Facebook and Instagram were designed to be addictive, and even collected data on children without consent, and against the law.
In a statement, Meta said “We share the attorneys general’s commitment to providing teens with safe, positive experiences online, and have already introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families.”
Doctors say the most important tools parents can use are simple.
“I would just encourage parents and guardians to continue to talk to your children and your adolescence continues conversations, continue, work about moderation, continue to work on your own moderation and control around social media, to really look inward about what needs are being met,” says Marguerite Ohrtman. “And, again, just keep talking, keep communicating. Don’t ignore it’s not going away.”
The bipartisan group of Attorneys General want Meta to end what they see as its harmful practices. They’re also suing for restitution of the families they allege were harmed by their social media platforms.