Should Teens Sue Companies for Addiction to Social Media?

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Will teens soon be able to sue for too much TikTok or an overabundance of Instagram? A bill already passed the House in Utah that puts new restrictions on social media companies, and would pave the way for teens to sue platforms if they become addicted.

The bill, known as HB311, would apply to platforms with 5 million users or more worldwide. It would prohibit companies from “designing their services in ways they know, or should know, could cause minors to become addicted” to using it. The bill has not yet passed the Senate in Utah.

Under the provisions of the bill, minors under age 18 could make the case to sue social media companies for “any addiction, financial, physical, or emotional harm” arising from the use of their social media platform. The tech companies would be given the opportunity to provide evidence to refute the claim.

A previous version of the bill proposed that minors under the age of 16 would be prohibited from using social media altogether without parental consent.

The ramifications of heavy exposure and excessive use of social media at a young age continue to be hotly debated. President Biden took the occasion in his State of the Union address to take up the cry in what he described as “an experiment” social media companies are “running on our children for profit,” and called for greater accountability.

Tech industry groups are calling many of the restrictions unconstitutional and a violation of First Amendment rights. As the debate heats up in California, one company is suing against new state restrictions, claiming they contradict laws already in place that protect social media companies from civil lawsuits based on material posted by users.

It’s not clear whether the Utah law would be deemed constitutional and prove enforceable if it passes in the state Senate.

Debate on the concern over children and social media is expected to be heard in the US Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Will companies ultimately be held responsible for social media addiction in children? Will individual or parental accountability play any role in the proceedings? Read more on the controversy here.

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