Tip Sheets

Meta’s engagement tactics can exacerbate harm to mental health

Media Contact

Becka Bowyer

Dozens of states are suing Meta claiming its social platforms are addictive and harmful to children’s mental health.

Adam Hoffman

Assistant Professor of pPsychology

Adam Hoffman, assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University, studies adolescents and how they interact with social media.

Hoffman says:

“The deleterious effect of social media on teen mental health, when it’s not used properly, can be exacerbated by some of the methods used by Meta and other social media platforms to keep teens engaged. Such methods include strategic algorithms and infinite scrolling. Given their lack of experience with social media, teens might not be able to detect when social media impacts their mental health as easily as adults.

“Most teens are only just being exposed to social media for the first time in adolescence. Finding ways to make social media not so addicting from the outset of their first social media exposure could protect their mental health. In essence, ‘easing’ them into social media without coercive techniques could be a beneficial introduction to social media that is less likely to impact their mental health. 

“At the same time, it’s important for parents to talk with their children about healthy habits and engagement with social media and discuss strategies for recognizing when social media might be impacting their mental health.”

Janis Whitlock

Research Scientist Emerita

Janis Whitlock, research scientist emerita, studies social media and mental health. She says the way Meta harvests user data and develops algorithms has paved the way for this legal challenge.

Whitlock says:

“As one of the first acts of litigation of its kind, what happens next has tremendous implications and is being closely watched by public and private interests. While litigators are likely to face legal challenges, largely linked to the first amendment, the significant number of states involved reflect powerful and widening concern about deleterious mental health trends among youth.

“While research linking mental health and social media shows a complex relationship, one not easily leveraged here, pervasive public conviction that there is a relationship between youth mental health and the way Meta harvests user data and develops algorithms has paved the way for this challenge and is likely to keep the door open for others.

“As a youth mental health researcher, parent and user of technology, it is impossible not to share some of these concerns. This is because it is impossible not to notice that the current and deepening mental health crisis among our young people will require more than resolution of questions about who is not culpable.

“Instead, it is clear to me that it requires all influential agents to assume the highest degree of responsibility for protecting youth well-being, even if it means sacrificing profit or market share. I would expect that legal challenges of this nature will continue, and, at the very least, will communicate the urgency and seriousness of the moral mandates to protect our nation’s young.”

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