A school in North Carolina recently removed its bathroom mirrors in hopes of getting its students off TikTok during school hours. According to WFMY-TV, Southern Middle School has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of students asking for bathroom breaks.
"Though this is an adjustment, we believe these changes will foster better learning by minimizing disruptions," the Almanance-Burlington School system told WFMY.
Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay: Childhood Beyond Brands, said schools are trying to desperately come up with solutions.
"I think kids are suffering mental health problems because of social media, I think there's behavior problems," Golin said. "I think kids are spending way too much time in school bathrooms. So I think schools are desperate. Is it the best approach? Of course not. The best approach would be for these social media platforms to change the way that they're designed to stop addicting kids and to stop showing them dangerous content."
Social media platforms are now facing lawsuits over how children interact with content. One such lawsuit was filed in recent days by Brandon Guffey, a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, who lost his son following an incident of online sextortion. He is suing Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook.
"They are responsible for what happened to my son," he told WRHI radio. "They allow these predators to contact minors within the U.S., they allow them to send and receive child pornography. It is proven that they intentionally designed algorithms that are addictive that target children."
Golin noted that this addiction is becoming an increasing problem.
"The problem is the business model," he said. "The business model is to collect as much data as you can from kids so you can serve them the content that's going to keep them on even longer, so you can serve them more ads so you can collect more data, and it's an endless cycle. And the problem is that keeping kids on as long as possible is addicting them, it's taking them away from activities that are much better for them than social media."
And this addiction, Golin said, is leading to dire consequences.
"The way that they're addicting kids is by showing them content, sending them down dangerous rabbit holes," he said. "And so when we think about things like cyberbullying or the sexual exploitation of children or the rise of anxiety and depression that's tied to social media, it's all part of the same problem."
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony from the leaders of major social media platforms. It is expected the witnesses will defend their companies' practices and outline steps they take to protect minors online.
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