New Coalition Of Ontario School Boards Sue Major Social Media Platforms

The SOS 4 Kids team strongly advocates for online safety. It’s just one of the many topics that we include in our My Safe Life and Home Alone personal safety programs. Due to today’s widespread obsession with online gaming and social media, it’s imperative that parents are wary of who their children are interacting with – even if it’s not in person.

It would appear as if some Ontario school boards are on the same wavelength. Last week, Vanessa Balintec of CBC News reported that no less than four of them are suing major social media platforms. According to her report, the makers of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are named in the case. The allegation? These apps are designed to rewire the way children think, behave and learn. Ultimately, these social media platforms disrupt their education.

The school boards are seeking $4.5 million in total damages.

United as a coalition known as Schools for Social Media Change, the four Ontario school boards launching the suit are Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, Peel District School Board and Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. They are seeking $4.5 billion in total damages from Meta Platforms Inc., Snap Inc. and ByteDance Ltd. They are the companies that operate Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok respectively.

In a recent news release, the coalition of school boards alleged that students are experiencing an “attention, learning, and mental health crisis”. It is due to the “prolific and compulsive use of social media products”. In addition, they allege that the named social media platforms promote cyberbullying, harassment, hate speech and misinformation. Combined, these factors contribute to increased physical violence and conflicts in schools.

Social media companies are “knowingly” harming children.

Rachel Chernos Lin is the chair of the Toronto District School Board. She was interviewed by David Common of CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” last week Thursday. Lin highlighted the coalition’s contention that the social media apps being sued are intentionally designed to deliver harmful content to youngsters. “These social media companies…have knowingly created a product that is addictive and marketed to kids,” she contended, “We need them to be held accountable and we need them to create safer products.”

What type of content do the social media platforms in question deliver to kids? Suicidal ideation, drugs, self-harm, alcohol, eating disorders, hate speech and sex are named. In particular, the apps offer content that often encourages “non-consensual” sexual activity, the coalition argues.

“Trying to respond to those problems has caused ‘massive strains’ on the boards’ funds, including in additional mental health programming and staff, IT costs and administrative resources,” reports Balintec of the coalition’s release, “The boards call on the social media giants to ‘remediate’ the costs to the larger education system and redesign their products to keep students safe.” The allegations have yet to be proven in court and there is no set date for when they will be heard.

How can you help your child make safe decisions both online and offline?

SOS 4 Kids’ My Safe Life personal safety program is designed for children aged 7 to 10. Home Alone Safety for Kids is geared to youth aged 9 – 12. Children can attend an instructor-led, virtual format or in-person class. In addition to many other safety measures, the personal safety programs teach kids online safety. To learn all about it, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-844-373-1024 or email us at [email protected]. You may also fill out the form on our Contact page!