TORONTO (NEWSnet/AP) — Four school boards in Ontario, Canada, have opened lawsuits against TikTok, Meta and SnapChat; on claims the social media platforms are disrupting student learning.

The lawsuits claim popular social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are “designed for compulsive use, have rewired the way children think, behave, and learn.”

Meta Platforms Inc. owns Facebook and Instagram, while Snap Inc. owns SnapChat and ByteDance Ltd. owns TikTok.

Rachel Chernos, a trustee for the Toronto District School Board, said teachers and parents are noticing social withdrawal, anxiety, attention problems, cyber bullying and mental health issues.

“These companies have knowingly created programs that are addictive that are aimed and marketed at young people and it is causing significant harm and we just can’t stand by any longer and not speak up about it,” Chernos said.

The school boards in the Canada suit, announced Thursday, are the Toronto District School Board, the Peel District School Board, the Toronto Catholic District School Board and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. They are seeking damages in excess of $4 billion Canadian (US$2.9 billion) for disruption to student learning and the education system.

Duncan Embury, a lawyer for the firm representing the boards, said there is a real addiction issue with the designed algorithms.

Embury said proper warnings are needed, age parameters need to change and there needs to be an increase in the level of resources school boards get to adapt to the new reality. He said the companies have knowingly and negligently designed their products to maximize the amount of time young people spend on their platforms at the expense of their wellbeing and education.

“There is an inability for students to focus,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Snap Inc., Tonya Johnson, said Snapchat helps its users stay connected with their friends.

“Snapchat opens directly to a camera — rather than a feed of content — and has no traditional public likes or comments,” she said. “While we will always have more work to do, we feel good about the role Snapchat plays in helping close friends feel connected, happy and prepared as they face the many challenges of adolescence.”

Representatives of Meta and ByteDance didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

No money will be paid to the attorneys handling the Canadian lawsuits unless they win.

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