Skip to content

School districts suing social media firms for disrupting their classrooms

Suits claim addictive platforms have rewired child behavioour, leaving schools to manage fallout
The TikTok app logo appears in Tokyo on Sept. 28, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Kiichiro Sato

Four of Ontario’s largest school boards are suing the parent companies of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, alleging the social media platforms are disrupting student learning.

The Toronto District School Board, the Peel District School Board, the Toronto Catholic District School Board and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board filed four separate but similar cases in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice on Wednesday.

The lawsuits claim the platforms are negligently designed for compulsive use and have rewired the way children think, behave and learn, leaving teachers and schools to manage the fallout.

They claim students are experiencing an attention, learning, and mental health crisis because of prolific and compulsive use of social media products.

“The fall out of compulsive use of social media amongst students 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,” the school boards said in a news release Thursday.

“The goal of the litigation is to provide school boards with the resources needed to support student programming and services, and to respond to the school-based problems social media giants have caused.”

The boards are seeking damages in excess of $4 billion for disruption to student learning and the education system.

The allegations in the lawsuits filed in Ontario Superior Court have not been proven.

Meta Platforms Inc. owns Facebook and Instagram, while Snap Inc. owns Snapchat and ByteDance Ltd. owns TikTok.

A spokeswoman for Snap Inc., Tonya Johnson, said Snapchat helps its users stay connected with their friends.

“Snapchat opens directly to a camera – rather than a feed of content – and has no traditional public likes or comments,” she said.

“While we will always have more work to do, we feel good about the role Snapchat plays in helping close friends feel connected, happy and prepared as they face the many challenges of adolescence.”

The other social media companies did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Hundreds of school boards in the United States, along with some states, have launched similar lawsuits against social media companies.

READ ALSO: Legislation to allow B.C. to sue social media giants, others for ‘hurting people’

READ ALSO: Corporations in good shape if TikTok goes dark, not so much the little guy