Ottawa Board Part of $4.5B Suit Against Social Media

 

This is a release from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board:

Ontario’s Largest School Boards Sue Social Media Giants for Disrupting Students’ Fundamental Right to Education 

School boards seek damages for disruption to student learning and the education system

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has joined the Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic School Board, and Peel District School Board to commence legal action against tech giants Meta Platforms Inc. (Facebook and Instagram), Snap Inc. (SnapChat), and ByteDance Ltd. (TikTok) for disrupting student learning and the education system.


According to the lawsuit,  social media products, negligently designed for compulsive use, have rewired the way children think, behave, and learn, leaving educators and schools to manage the fallout. These addictive properties have compromised students’ ability to learn, disrupted classrooms, and resulted in increasing mental health harms.

According to recent research:

Approximately 91 % of Ontario students in grades 7 – 12 use social media daily*
45 % of these students use social media for five hours or more a day*
1 in 10 Ontario students report feelings of pervasive nervousness when not using their electronic devices, and that this discomfort is relieved by “use.”*
We are facing a youth mental health crisis with many reporting poor or fair mental health (38%), and feeling as though they are in serious psychological distress (26%).*
Almost one-third (30%) of students report being cyberbullied at least once in the past year.*
21.8% of Instagram users aged 13-15 stated they were the target of bullying over the product within the previous seven days.**
One in five report harming themselves and/or have seriously contemplated suicide.*
*Source: CAMH’s 2021 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS)

**Source: 2021 Internal Instagram BEEF Survey Results

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 boards are advancing claims in excess of one billion dollars. This action calls on social media giants to remediate these enormous costs to the education system and to redesign their products to keep students safe.

Neinstein LLP, a Toronto-based litigation firm, has been retained by the aforementioned school boards to represent them in their fight for social media change. 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.

School boards will not be responsible for any costs related to the lawsuit unless a successful outcome is reached.

The litigation is not focused on taking away access and use of social media. We understand that social media is a part of life, and a communication tool that is used by many in our community. That said, social media companies know about the negative impact of their products on children but continue to ignore and dismiss their own findings. The lawsuit calls on social media giants to make their products and/or services safer for youths and to compensate district school boards for disrupting their educational mandate.

At the OCDSB, we want students to be responsible digital citizens. In our classrooms, we discuss a number of issues with students, including bullying, mental health, healthy relationships, body shaming, discrimination, and the appropriate use of technology (details on the OCDSB procedure can be found at this link). As more information about social media platforms come to light and we better understand the risks and harms to students, we continue to change and evolve our policies. Together, with Neinstein and other districts across the province, we hope this social media litigation will result in practical solutions that we can implement moving forward and bring forth meaningful change to keep students safe.

To learn more about the lawsuit and to follow developments, please visit the Schools for Social Media Change Alliance at www.schoolboardsforchange.ca.

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