March 28, 2024

Canada schools sue Instagram, TikTok for disrupting education

Canada schools sue Instagram, TikTok for disrupting education

Four of Canada’s largest school boards have launched lawsuits accusing social media platforms including Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok of disrupting student learning, they said Thursday.

Local education authorities in the United States have also filed similar lawsuits in recent months, including a Maryland school district that sued Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta as well as TikTok parent company ByteDance for their role in a “mental health crisis” among young people. This is the first such suit in Canada.

The three Toronto boards and one in Ottawa filed separate statements of claim with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice seeking at least Can$4 billion (US$3 billion) from the companies behind the popular apps — Meta, Snap and ByteDance.

They also urged the companies to redesign their apps to be less addictive.

The Toronto District School Board accused the companies of having “negligently designed and marketed addictive products” that are “rewiring the way that (students) think, act, behave and learn.”

It cited significant problems with student attention and focus. Educators also lamented that social media use has led to students’ social withdrawal and increased cyberbullying and aggressive behaviors.

“Students are experiencing an attention, learning and mental health crisis because of prolific and compulsive use of social media products,” the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board said in a statement.

This “is causing massive strains on the four school boards’ finite resources, including additional needs for in-school mental health programming and personnel, increased IT costs and additional administrative resources,” it said.

The lawsuits in Canada come a day after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law restricting social media access for minors under 16 on Monday, in part citing increasing concerns over the platforms’ effects on teen mental health.

But the law has also sparked worry that it sets a dangerous precedent for restricting free speech online.