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Snapchat Facilitating Anxiety, Depression in Youth? What's the Platform's Liability?

Social media usage has skyrocketed among teens and young adults in recent years, with a huge proportion of the youth now reporting they have access to a smartphone.

With this saturation of social platforms has come mounting evidence linking frequent use to degraded mental health outcomes. Many studies hint at possible correlations between high social media use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and FOMO (fear of missing out) among adolescents.

According to Forbes, the vast majority of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 using social media has doubled to 46% since 2014, when only 24% of teens claimed to be online!

Platforms like Snapchat have come under particular scrutiny for their habit-forming features aimed at kids, like “streaks” that reward daily engagement.

Through this blog post, we aim to raise pressing questions about Snapchat's ethical duties to its young user base, and whether any legal liability exists when its product design plays on adolescent psychology to drive compulsive use.

Snapchat's Addictive By Design Features

Let's talk about some of Snapchat's key features meant to keep you hooked. For starters, there's Snapstreaks - those little fire symbols promoting daily back-and-forths with friends.

Snap knows teens don't wanna be the first pal to break the streak! There are also trophies, Snap scores, and streak preserve reminders nudging users to keep their numbers high.

According to TorHoerman Law, here's the psychology behind this gamified system - it preys on our innate craving for social approval and youth's tendency towards peer pressure. You see your BFF's 10 million Snap score so need to keep pace.

Pretty soon you're Snapping just to earn more trophies than your classmates. These tactics work by igniting teens' FOMO - you start panicking over missing a hot gossip sesh or viral Snap. Before you know it, you're glued to Snapchat out of fear of disappearing from your social circle.

Clinical Links Between Heavy Usage and Mental Health Issues

The research quantifying all this is staggering. In 2023, Snapchat surpassed Instagram in popularity, with 60% of teenagers reporting that they use Snapchat as their preferred social media platform. 
A study found a correlation between high Snapchat usage and rising rates of anxiety, depression, and loneliness in adolescent girls. The culprit seems to be social comparison - teens see Snapchat as reality rather than a carefully curated highlight reel. So when they compare lives, confidence takes a nosedive.

There's also been a troubling link to self-harm for Snapchat-bullied kids. For socially anxious youth, streak loss can feel catastrophic - like a confirmation, that you have no 'real' buddies.

Moreover, social media platforms can also trigger eating disorders like anorexia nervosa due to the unrealistic beauty standards reflected online.

If you or someone you know has experienced mental health issues as a result of excessive social media usage or addiction, you could qualify to pursue legal action through a Snapchat Lawsuit.

Stories of teenagers and their parents reveal Snapchat knew exactly how their product was capable of sinking young mental health - but achieving user growth and engagement simply mattered more.

Emerging Legal Front to Hold Social Apps Accountable

With the revelations around social media's destruction of adolescent mental health, families are starting to fight back through the courts. A landmark UK case saw the parents of 14-year-old Molly Russell sue Instagram's parent company, Meta.

After battling depression for more than a year, she tragically ended her own life, having been exposed to graphic self-harm content continually recommended by the platform's algorithm.

The lawsuit accused Meta of designing an addictive platform failing to protect vulnerable users. It referenced Big Tobacco legal battles - companies knowingly selling harmful products while hooking youth. The case settled for over $1 million, demanding better platform safeguards like ending endless scroll features.

While US lawsuits against social apps have generally struggled, the tide may be shifting. Several families have launched cases against Snapchat for similar mental health damages. Their children's accounts showed patterns of harmful viral content contributing to anxiety, depression, and disordered eating. The case could be a waterside moment holding negligent social platforms financially and criminally liable.

Supporting Healthier Social Media Use

How can we engender social media platforms built for users’ well-being, and not mere engagement? Public education encouraging healthy screen time limits and ‘digital nutrition’ is key - helping young users balance online connections with real-world relationships.

But responsibility also rests with the platforms themselves. Features empowering user control over content exposure duration are a start – conveyed through less interruptive and distracting design.

Standards protecting young demographics could limit certain gamified features until age-appropriate. And, recommendation algorithms must evolve beyond mindless content promotion towards suggestions benefitting individual wellness.

Of course, private platforms generally answer to shareholders demanding endless market growth. So updated regulations and accountability systems balancing corporate interests with youth safety obligations may be essential medicine.

With lives at stake, we need a combined prescription of education, empowered moderation, and humane design principles to nurture social media that connects without harming.

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