Portrait of family that's suing Meta over their daughter's Instagram addiction
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Parents Sue Meta Over Daughter's Instagram Addiction

June 16, 2022

It's easier than ever to lose yourself in the world of social media. From following wacky stories to influencing at all costs, there's no shortage of diversions in the social media sphere to distract us from the real world.

Needless to say, it's all too easy to become dependent on social media. The parents of one Instagram addict are taking action by suing Insta's parent company, Meta, claiming that their platforms negatively affected their daughter.

The suit was filed in California.

Seal of the United States District Court, Northern District of California
Wikimedia Commons | US DC NorCal

Kathleen and Jeff Spence, both of Long Island, say in the suit that their daughter, Alexis — who's now 19 — has been using Instagram since the age of 11. This is relevant information because that would have placed her below the platform's minimum age of 13.

Alexis first logged on eight years ago.

19-year-old whose parents are suing Meta over her Instagram addiction
youtube | Good Morning America

The suit was filed on the Spences' behalf by the Social Media Victims Law Center, which is, in fact, a real thing.

The heart of the lawsuit revolves around the allegation that the family was "emotionally and financially harmed by Meta's addictive design and continued and harmful distribution and/or provision of multiple Instagram accounts to their minor child."

Social media wasn't good for Alexis.

Hand holding a phone displaying Instagram's login page
Unsplash | Solen Feyissa

"When I'm 11 years old, what am I to do but keep looking at this content?" Alexis said to ABC News. "And when you're being told every day, 'This is how to be pretty,' 'This is what you're supposed to look like,' what am I to think? I was a child."

Alexis' parents felt like they were losing her.

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Kathleen Spence, Alexis' mom, says her daughter first started using Instagram without her parents' knowledge or consent.

"Slowly, piece by piece, we were losing our confident, loving child, and she was becoming depressed, angry, withdrawn."

A whistleblower inspired the Spences to take action.

Phone showing Facebook next to a laptop keyboard
Unsplash | Timothy Hales Bennett

Internal Facebook documents (remember, Facebook and Instagram share Meta as a parent company) leaked by a former product manager showed that Meta was well aware of the negative mental effects caused by its platforms. Crucially, despite Meta being aware of this, they did nothing to stop it.

Could the Spences have done more for Alexis?

Rainbow cast over rocky surface with handmade Instagram logo
Unsplash | lalo Hernandez

It's easy to look at this and say that Alexis' parents could have nipped it in the bud, but they say they did everything they possibly could have.

"At the end of the day, my husband and I are one loving set of parents who are trying to keep our daughter safe from a multi-billion dollar company who was meeting behind closed doors to come up with ways to keep our children addicted to their products because they want to make money," Kathleen said.

Meta isn't commenting on the lawsuit.

Meta Platforms Headquarters in Menlo Park, California
Wikimedia Commons | LPS.1

Saying that they won't publicly comment on ongoing litigation, a Meta spokesperson did tell ABC News that numerous safeguards are in place, including age verification along with settings related to parental control and privacy. Additionally, Meta platforms offer options to access mental health resources.

The Spences' lawyer is well versed in this litigation.

Portrait of family that's suing Meta over their daughter's Instagram addiction
youtube | Good Morning America

Attorney Matthew Bergman, who's representing the Spence family, also represented a mother who claims that issues with Meta's products led to her daughter dying by suicide.

"To say that taking phones away is a realistic, viable solution? It's not," Bergman told ABC. "Turn off the algorithms. Turn off the ability of kids to stay on all day and night."

What do you think of this lawsuit?

Parents share at least some of the responsibility when it comes to keeping their kids safe online, but the addictive nature of social media also compels platforms like Meta to prioritize its users' mental health.

Let us know what you think of this story. And parents, tell us what you do to keep your kids safe online.

h/t: Good Morning America / ABC