The parents of a 19-year-old woman are suing Meta, alleging their daughter developed an Instagram addiction as a minor that eventually prompted an eating disorder and suicidal ideation.
In a personal injury lawsuit filed Monday in the US District Court for Northern District of California, obtained by, Kathleen and Jeff Spence detail their daughter, Alexis, beginning Instagram at age 11 – two years younger than the platform’s required age of 13 – and slowly becoming consumed with her appearance and the perception of others as an obvious flashpoint to her ensuing mental health struggles.
In the lawsuit, which is filed under the Social Media Victims Law Center, the family is claiming that an Alexis’ addiction to the social media app started young and was the genesis of numerous injuries including, “addiction, anxiety, depression, self-harm , eating disorders, and, ultimately, suicidal ideation. ” The Spences claim they were “emotionally and financially harmed by Meta’s addictive design” and seeking monetary damage in the form of “past and present” medical expenses plus “future loss of income.” Namely, they’re calling for accountability in making the app safer for teens.
“The fact that Alexis is here is truly a miracle because we fought tooth-and-nail for her,” Kathleen Spence told Good Morning America. “We did everything we possibly could for her. We got her the help that she needed on multiple levels, and there were times when we were very concerned for her safety.”
Meta cites parental control locks on its website for minors and features disclaimers about usage of its products at a young age. Direct messages made by to Meta were not immediately returned.
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Although Alexis received mental health treatment as a teen, according to court documents, her parents allege that the symptoms she experienced came as a direct byproduct from Meta generating how she was supposed to look to fit in with a popular crowd. The lawsuit also cites Meta as featuring inflammatory images of self-harm that Alexis eventually picked up himself.
Cited in the lawsuit are The Facebook Papers, documents first published by The Wall Street Journal in October of 2021 and released by whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former product manager at the tech company. Those documents revealed that Facebook as a company commissioned studies about the potential harm that negative content on its platforms was causing. They showed that company executives were aware of one study that showed that 1 in 3 teens describing their body image being worse as a result of Instagram.
The Spences are being represented in the lawsuit by Matthew Bergman, an attorney who in February filed a separate lawsuit against Meta and another social media company on behalf of a mother who claims the “negligence” of the companies’ products allegedly led to her daughter’s suicide .
“We’re all in favor of parental responsibility. This family did everything they’re supposed to do with parental guards on products, but the nature of Instagram is they’re designed to avoid parental authority, “Bergman told.” The only thing unusual about this case is that Alexis, through God’s grace , is here to talk about it. So many families I’ve spoken to, the child has not been able to recover or they’ve taken their own life. “