Canada schools accuse social media giants of impacting students

29 Mar 2024

Image: © Nina Lawrenson/

Four Canadian school boards are seeking more than $4bn in damages and claim Meta, TikTok and Snapchat have rewired how children think, behave and learn.

A coalition of Canadian school boards are taking legal action against several social media giants for their alleged impact on student learning.

The four school boards are seeking claims in excess of $4bn from Meta, Snap and TikTok owner ByteDance for the alleged impact. They also want the companies to redesign their products to keep children safe.

The boards claim the compulsive use of social media among students is causing “massive strains” on the resources of these schools, including extra costs for mental health personnel, increased IT costs and “additional administrative resources”.

The lawsuit claims that social media companies have designed their products for compulsive use and that these products have rewired the way children think, behave and learn, leaving educators and schools to “manage the fallout”.

The four school boards involved in the lawsuit are the Toronto District School Board, Peel District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. Toronto District School Board director of education Colleen Russell-Rawlins said the influence of social media on today’s youth at school “cannot be denied”.

“It leads to pervasive problems such as distraction, social withdrawal, cyberbullying, a rapid escalation of aggression and mental health challenges,” Russell-Rawlins said. “Therefore, it is imperative that we take steps to ensure the wellbeing of our youth.

“We are calling for measures to be implemented to mitigate these harms and prioritise the mental health and academic success of our future generation.”

This marks the latest legal challenge against social media companies for their alleged impact on children. New York City recently filed a major lawsuit against several social media companies to hold them accountable for their alleged “damaging influence” on the mental health of children.

New York City mayor Eric Adams said last month that the city joined hundreds of school districts across the US that want to force tech giants to change their behaviour and want to recover the costs of addressing this public health threat.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic