Parents do all that they can to protect their children, from increased home security to smart family practices. Unfortunately, one of the leading causes of death in teens isn’t an outside threat—it’s their own mental health. And the risk of suicide is only increasing over time. Between 2007 and 2018, the national suicide rates for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 increased by over 57 percent.
One of the significant accelerants of that rate is reported to be the sudden appearance of social media. Since the dawn of the internet, parents have worried about what their children might be doing online or might be having done to them with anonymous strangers. Social media sites and apps, however, have been accused of intentionally and algorithmically placing harmful content in front of their vulnerable users, who are more often than not susceptible teens or young adults.
According to multiple lawsuits against social media giants like Meta (Facebook and Instagram), many social media platforms' algorithms repeat types of content that social media victims, such as teens or young adults, may engage with, even if that content could be harmful to a user's mental health. In that regard, in order to get more advertisement impressions and extended use of their platform, Meta preys on the insecurities of susceptible youth.
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, there are workable roads to recovery in which you can play a key role. Below are several helpful insights regarding the risks of suicide in young people, specifically those influenced by the unethical practices of social media companies. You can also speak with a specialist at Morgan & Morgan for a free, no-obligation case evaluation to learn about your legal options and to further protect your family and others from the continued threat of social media.
Warning Signs of Suicidal Young People
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health or the likelihood that they may attempt an act of suicide or self-harm, there are several behaviors or warning signs that you can look for to better understand your child’s condition. These include:
- Not sleeping or oversleeping
- Sudden changes in eating patterns or fully developed eating disorders
- Intense obsession or frustration with activity on social media
- Complaints of stomach aches, headaches, or fatigue
- Lack of interest, energy, or motivation
- Being quick to irritability, anger, or violence
- Lack of interest in friends or family
- Poor concentration, focus, or memory
- Falling grades or skipping school
- Lacking a sense of purpose in life
- Dramatic changes in personality or appearance
- Reckless, risky, or bizarre behavior
- Alcohol or drug use
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Deep feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, or anger
How Social Media Can Hurt Your Child
The idea that social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram influence your child’s mental health isn’t simply speculative. Even former employees of these social media companies have said the same.
In 2021, former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before a U.S. Senate committee, where she accused the company of ignoring the harm caused by its social platforms. Eating disorders from Facebook usage were also illuminated by Haugen, when she went on record saying, "Facebook knows that they are leading young users to anorexia content."
Haugen explained in her testimony before the U.S. Senate how Facebook’s algorithms use engagement-based rankings to tailor content to each individual user, often showing them more and more extreme content based on what they engage with. For some struggling users, this meant an Instagram feed full of suicidal ideation and self-harm.
Unfortunately, no one outside of Facebook knows how the algorithm is designed and what its effects are on social media victims. There are no means by which governments or independent regulators can review company policies and data to ensure social media isn’t leading to harm or even death.