Instagram, Snapchat sued over alleged role in girl’s suicide — Analysis

Social media is addictive enough to cause a child to commit suicide, a mother asserts in a lawsuit

Tammy Rodriguez asserts that Selena, eleven-year-old, had been so dependent on Instagram and Snapchat she experienced depression, eating disorders, sleep deprivation and other mental health issues. This week, the woman from Connecticut sued both companies in San Francisco Federal Court.

According to the lawsuit, filed on Thursday against the platforms’ respective parent companies, Meta (formerly Facebook) and Snap, the photo-sharing and messaging apps lack parental control and “seek to exploit users’ susceptibility.” As an alleged result, the girl had “A severe addiction that lasted more than 2 years has been a struggle” and then took her own life in July last year.

The terms of service state that an individual can create an account only if they are 13 or older. However, platforms don’t have robust age verification controls, according to the suit. The absence of parental controls made it almost impossible for the mother to limit her child’s screen time on the social media, and apparently only caused further confrontations in the family.

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The only way for Tammy Rodriguez to effectively limit access to Defendants’ products would be to physically confiscate Selena’s internet-enabled devices,” the suit claims. She simply fled from home in order to access her other accounts.

A therapist to whom the girl had been taken evaluated the harm, saying that the practice has never before seen “A patient is addicted to social media.”

American teens are experiencing a mental health crisis,” attorney Matthew Bergman, founder of Social Media Victims Law Center in Seattle, told Bloomberg. Tammy Rodriguez will be represented by the company. He also filed an additional complaint, this time representing a mother from Oregon. “There are many mental health conditions” of a 15-year-old are blamed on Snap and Meta.

Anxiety over the well-being of social media users aged 16 and under came to the attention of the US senators. Tech companies appeared in hearings, after product-manager-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen accused Mark Zuckerberg’s company of prioritizing money over children’s and teenagers’ safety. In particular, she called for greater regulation of Instagram. Haugen also spoke before a European Parliament committee, discussing the social media companies’ negative impact on users.

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