Seattle student activist says suing social media is not the answer

Seattle student activist says suing social media is not the answer

The Seattle School District is suing the social media companies. The district wants platforms like Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram to take responsibility for the impact they have on young people’s mental health and help pay for the support students need.

But what do young people think of the Seattle School District’s lawsuit against social media?

The Seattle Student Union is a voice for students. Formed last year, the union has advocated for measures such as tougher gun controls, following a fatal shooting at Ingraham High School, and more mental health counselors in schools.

Noir Goldberg holds a sign during the Seattle student walkout against gun violence in November 2022.

The Seattle School District said the social media lawsuit was just one strategy it uses to help students. And he stressed that no district money is being used in the lawsuit. The Kent School District joined Seattle’s complaint.

Noir Goldberg, 17, a Seattle Student Union board member, joined KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick to talk about the approach.

Listen to their conversation above or read the transcript below.


Note: This transcript is provided for reference only and may contain typos. Please confirm accuracy before quoting.

KNKX Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick: What does the union think of the school district lawsuit?

Noir Goldberg, Seattle Student Union Board Member: We understand the impact of social media on children. But suing social media companies is not the right way to deal with mental health.

Kendrick: Some say it may be at least a symbolic gesture intended to highlight what some see as the negative impact of social media on young people. What’s your answer to that?

Goldberg: Social media is always a tricky issue. While, yes, it can cause, like bullying or self-image issues, it’s also been an incredible resource for people, especially during the pandemic when we’ve been able to see each other face to face and allow people to connect. And it helps to get a broader perspective on mental health. Personally, I had a very beneficial impact on me. It also raises awareness about mental health and helps de-stigmatize it. But there are tons of other factors that contribute to the decline in teenage mental health that we’ve seen, and that decline has been declining for years. And I think that kind of reached a breaking point with the pandemic, with everyone being pulled out of their support systems. And now that it’s become more socially acceptable to talk about it, we have more and more people coming forward with their issues.

Kendrick: Do you think adults, especially older people, might point to social media and say “there are only bad things that come from using it?” Do you think it could also be because they don’t use social media as much or don’t know how it can be helpful?

Goldberg: I’ve certainly been told that the social media narrative is as big, bad, as evil, and there are certainly dangers to social media the same way there are in any community. But growing up with it and integrating it so much into our lives, we definitely have a different awareness and opinions of it than the people who are just seeing it now. Parents may consider it a dangerous place for their children because there is so much more connection online. But it can also be a good thing when done safely.

Kendrick: And what specifically do you want the district to do, providing more counselors per school?

Goldberg: The requests we had that were more suitable for schools were a 1:200 ratio for students and counselors. One counselor for every 200 students, as recommended by the national council of counsellors, and adequate funding for it. Thus, we could have counselors representative of school populations and people of color and people with, for example, minority identities would feel represented in the way they seek help.

Kendrick: How do students talk about mental health when you relate to school? Are we talking about it openly? Is it, is it something that has become more of an open question to discuss?

Goldberg: It definitely is. It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t been through some sort of struggle, which is incredibly unfortunate. Everyone seems to either have a success story or just the story of what they’re going through right now. And it’s become very normalized, which is great because it creates space for people to raise these issues and get help. But it’s definitely become more of a normal conversation, a lot more than it used to be.

Kendrick: Would you like to hear more from the district about this and promote open discussion about mental health issues?

Goldberg: We would. We would really like the district to help us with counselor support.

Kendrick: Noir, thank you for taking the time to speak with me.

Goldberg: Of course. Thank you for giving us this opportunity.

Kendrick: Noir Goldberg is a junior at Ballard High School and a member of the executive board of the Seattle Student Union.

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