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HomeUncategorizedOntario Schools Fight Back: Lawsuits Target Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok

Ontario Schools Fight Back: Lawsuits Target Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok

Ontario’s 4 school boards are suing Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok parent companies, alleging they are disrupting student learning, contributing to a mental health crisis, and leaving educators to manage the aftermath.

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

Social media platforms are being sued for negligence, claiming they have rewired children’s thinking, behavior, and learning, leading to an attention, learning, and mental health crisis.

The school boards are facing strains on their finite resources, including additional mental health programming, IT costs, and administrative resources, as a result of the compulsive use of social media among students.

The litigation aims to allocate resources to school boards to support student programming and address the issues caused by social media giants.

The boards are seeking over $4 billion in damages for disruption to student learning and the education system, claiming allegations in Ontario Superior Court that have not been proven. Meta Platforms owns Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Snapchat, a popular social media platform, has been criticized for its direct camera interface and lack of traditional public likes and comments. However, its role in connecting close friends and preparing them for adolescence challenges is praised. Hundreds of US school boards and some states have also launched lawsuits against social media companies.

Four Ontario boards claim that online platforms have deliberately influenced students’ use of social media, causing mental health issues. They claim these platforms have acted recklessly, maliciously, and reprehensibly, causing punitive damages.

They also claim the platforms facilitate child sexual abuse, amplify harmful content, and refuse to remove threats unless law enforcement intervenes.

The boards of schools have taken measures to address the increasing use of social media among students, including increasing resources for investigating cyberbullying and online sexual exploitation, developing policies to educate students on social media harms, and responding to threats made against schools, staff, or students.

They have also shifted resources to proactively monitor social media for such threats and urgently respond to them after hours. Additionally, students are struggling to vet information and spot misinformation on social media, pushing teachers to spend more time and resources on countering harmful ideologies.

Boards are educating students and parents about social media dangers through speakers, presentations, and resources. They are also responding to increased vandalism and risky behavior due to viral challenges. Documents suggest students may engage in reckless behavior for views, likes, and comments, such as scaling school buildings.

Ontario school boards are facing a surge in student misconduct due to social media, with teachers limiting phone use and social media usage, resulting in decreased instructional time. Ontario Premier Doug Ford suggests focusing on students rather than legal fees.

School boards will not incur costs for lawsuits unless successful, and any awarded funds will be used to meet student needs, including additional staff, technological safeguards, programming, and training.

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