Rantz: Seattle Public Schools Has Damaged Teen Mental Health But Blame It On Social Media

Seattle Public Schools filed a lawsuit against social media companies, arguing that their services target children and cause them to develop mental health problems. It’s a frivolous lawsuit designed to garner attention and, if they’re lucky, cover a chunk of their budget that the county doesn’t want to pay for. While the topic itself is worthy of serious discussion, so is the fact that SPS has been causing the exact same problems in children for the past three years. SPS literally forced children to log on to the same computers and phones they used to access social media.

SPS argued that TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat contribute to student mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders and cyberbullying. As a result, these students experience academic difficulties and require additional resources that the school district must pay for (specialized mental health problem identification training, etc.). It’s a novel argument. Unfortunately, it also depends on us not remembering the significant damage SPS caused.

While social media is having a negative impact on youth (and adults), the recent rise in mental health issues among youth is a direct result of school districts and teacher unions needlessly closing schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. To make matters worse, children are indoctrinated with far-left views of race and gender that are threatening, shameful, and confusing.

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SPS tries to deflect blame

Despite knowing that young people were least vulnerable to adverse COVID outcomes, while hearing from millions of parents how their children were becoming increasingly depressed from being stuck at home, SPS teachers have been hesitant about reopening schools. Many didn’t want to commute and liked the convenience of the job of pretending to teach from home. But if they wanted to go back to work, they demanded higher wages and other concessions. They didn’t care that they kept their students isolated; the suffering of the students served the greater good of meeting the demands of recalcitrant teachers’ unions.

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Nationwide, emergency departments saw at least a 24% increase in psychiatric visits for 5- to 11-year-olds in 2020 compared to 2021. In adolescents, it was an increase of 31%. SPS will have you believe this was due to a child watching videos on TikTok when it was more their disinterest in serving their children and getting back to work.

In addition, children had much easier access to social media there SPS forced their students to stay online. And for a district that seems to loathe social media, they rely heavily on Twitter and Facebook to make important announcements about school matters like closures, event offerings and holidays. Why does SPS conduct school business at these locations?

Social media is harmful; that’s SPS

While there’s little doubt that social media can be unhealthy, do you know what else can have adverse effects on student mental health? Telling white children that they are all part of a white supremacist culture where they permeate racism with their white privilege. Nor does it help to tell black children that cops roam the streets of Seattle to kill them. Confusing kids about gender identity or helping kids keep secrets from their parents about gender confusion they’re going through (or having teachers tell them they’re going through) probably isn’t helping their mental health either.

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How can SPS honestly say they can concretely prove their students are struggling emotionally over a social media site they may not even be using? SPS has no idea how much time a child spends on a social media site. And they don’t know the exact problems of individual students. Will the district violate student privacy and pressure students to speak publicly about concerns they thought they would raise privately to a school counselor? SPS can’t prove any of its claims, which is why its best shot is hoping for a settlement. But I can’t imagine the social media companies would settle down anytime soon, as it would only lead to equally frivolous lawsuits from every school district across the country trying to make a quick buck.

Schools should talk to students about the dangers of social media. It’s a worthwhile conversation and it could perhaps reach some kids who are glued to Twitter or Snapchat. Ultimately, however, it is the job of parents to better monitor the time their children spend in front of a screen. Stopping a 16-year-old from using Instagram 24/7 isn’t easy, but parenting isn’t easy.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3pm to 6pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, Instagramand Facebook. Check back often for more news and analysis.