Wrongful death lawsuit filed against social media platforms after suicide of Wisconsin teen

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 7:05 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A wrongful death lawsuit in the suicide of a 17-year-old Wisconsin boy was filed Tuesday, which alleges that the companies who run Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat knowingly sold social media products that are designed to be addictive to minors and cause harmful results.

Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC) filed the lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc. and Snap, Inc. in the death of 17-year-old Christopher J. “CJ” Dawley.

The Salem-native was an honor student who was involved in many extra-curricular activities up until 2012 when he joined Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, according to SMVLC.

In two years’ time, the law firm claims Dawley became addicted to the platforms which caused issues including sleep deprivation and body image issues. After developing a pain in his legs in 2014, the law firm states that Dawley decided to kill himself due to the belief that body was permanently deficient.

The teen’s parents, Chris and Donna Dawley, said that while no amount of money could ever compensate them, they are hoping that their actions will hold the social media platforms accountable.

“If our effort to hold these companies responsible for exposing kids to their deadly products prevents even one family from experiencing the pain that our family has suffered by CJ’s loss, our struggle will have been worthwhile,” Chris Dawley stated.

The founder of SMVLC, Matthew P. Bergman, said that he believed that the social media companies designed their websites to be addictive to minors and were aware of the adverse side effects that would arise in minors who used their products.

“Congressional testimony has shown that both Meta Platforms and Snapchat were aware of the addictive nature of their products and failed to protect minors in the name of more clicks and additional revenue,” Bergman said. “We are calling on the parent companies of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to prioritize the health and wellness of its users by implementing safeguards to protect minors from the danger of cyberbullying and sexual exploitation that run rampant on their platforms.”

The safeguards that the law center is hoping to put in place if the lawsuit is won include verifying minors ages, providing increased parental controls, protecting minors from viewing harmful content, offering minors protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, creating non-addictive social media products, and giving parents information about the dangers of minors using social media.

If you or someone you know are in crisis, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. You can also text HELLO to 741741.

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