Why accountability and regulation are needed to curb social media youth crisis
(BPT) - The statistics are in — and it’s quite clear that America’s teens are in crisis. The cause? A freewheeling social media environment where cyberbullying and exploitation are rampant and where the companies that do nothing to stop it are not held accountable, according to the Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC).
With the advent of digital technologies, social media has seen a boon over the past 10-15 years. Most people don’t go anywhere without their smart phones and spend more and more time on social media. While it brings many advantages in keeping people together, a lack of regulation and responsibility opens the door for many dangers, especially for children and teenagers.
These dangers, such as cyberbullying, are taking their toll on teens’ mental health. Suicide among teenage girls increased 56% since 2012, according to a 2019 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Suicide attempts, eating disorders and major depression are also up, according to the study. Many other studies have come to similar conclusions.
Despite a deepening crisis, social media companies earn billions in profits without having to bear the costs of injuries to users of their products, according to the SMVLC.
While government regulation can play an important role in solving the issue, it can only address problems after they become publicized either by company whistleblowers or investigations. The only true path to lasting change is through the court system, the group says.
“Social media companies have been knowingly putting our children and young adults at risk in the name of profits and increased market share without the fear of legal repercussions for far too long,” said Attorney Matthew P. Bergman, founder of the SMVLC.
The SMVLC seeks to leverage product liability principles to force social media companies to elevate consumer safety in their economic analysis; and to design safer platforms that protect children and teens from cyberbullying.
The firm recently filed three cases on behalf of victims of social media cyberbullying. They argue the companies never warned parents of the harms of social media and didn’t provide them with tools to monitor and protect their children.
“Victims who initially seek to hold social media companies legally accountable are brave pioneers whose courage will make it easier for future victims to get the compensation they need and eventually force social media companies to make social responsibility a priority,” said Bergman.
Social media cyberbullying victims, as well as those who have been the victim of targeted harassment, hate speech and other online harassment, and whose mental health was affected, are encouraged to visit www.socialmediavictims.com or to call 800-634-6994 to learn about available legal resources.