Ontario | School boards on crusade against social networks

Are teachers and schools grappling with the problems created by some young people’s addiction to social media? In Ontario, four school boards are accusing the parent companies of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok of disrupting students’ learning and are demanding more than $4 billion from them.

What is the purpose of these proceedings?

Noting that the mental health, attention and learning of students are affected by excessive use of social networks, the school boards of the Toronto district, the Peel district and the Ottawa-Carleton district as well as the Toronto Catholic District School Board filed four complaints in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Thursday.

The companies behind the applications most popular with young people seek to “maximize their profits” at the expense of the well-being of students, plead the school boards, which say that it is teachers and schools who must deal with the consequences for students. young people, in particular by increasing mental health assistance.

There are few precedents on which to base ourselves to consider a solution to this legal action, says Marie-Pier Jolicoeur, doctoral student in law at Laval University.

“These are large, very expensive lawsuits, which may have a chance of being settled and not going to trial, which is sometimes a shame because the court is a forum which allows things to be brought to light and to invite experts, to have parties testify,” explains Mme Sweet heart.

This legal action is not unprecedented: hundreds of school boards across the United States, as well as some U.S. states, have filed similar lawsuits against social media companies. In Quebec, three parents of minor players have filed a class action against Fortnite by denouncing the addiction caused by this game.

In this context, “it is not surprising that we come to question the elephant in the room that are the web giants, rather than being in a discourse that blames parents, or demonizes young people” , observes Marie-Pier Jolicoeur, who specializes in technology law and children’s law.

Could Quebec schools follow?

Schools for Social Media Change, which brings together Ontario school boards suing social media giants, did not wish to grant an interview to The Pressbut asked whether school service centers in Quebec could join the movement, we replied that for the moment, the emphasis had been placed on Ontario schools.

“We believe this is an issue that affects schools and school authorities across the country,” said lawyer Duncan Embury, head of litigation at Neinstein LLP, which represents Ontario school boards and funds the lawsuit.

The Federation of School Service Centers of Quebec says it has not heard of any lawsuits of the kind that could be initiated by its members, but agrees “that the dependence of young people on social networks can be a disturbing element for the student learning and that this adds a burden to the school system.

The Federation of Private Educational Establishments (FEEP) considers that bringing such proceedings is not its role.

But yes, says its president David Bowles, “we see digital addictions among young people”. “We see young people always playing the same games. But schools take young people into the society in which they live,” he adds.

The office of Minister of Education Bernard Drainville recalls that cell phones were banned in Quebec school classes last January.

“We must continue to think about the actions to take,” writes Antoine de la Durantaye, press secretary to Bernard Drainville.

What effect do screens have on students?

Ontario school boards say the targeted companies “knew, or should have known” that designing platforms that encourage addictive behavior would create problems in schools.

“We know that many platforms use reinforcement strategies, “gamification” which are used in games of chance,” observes Caroline Fitzpatrick, professor of education at the University of Sherbrooke and holder of the Canada Research Chair in children’s use of digital media.

The professor’s work has shown that the use of video games, particularly among boys, leads to a reduction in academic motivation. For both boys and girls, the more time spent playing video games, the greater the risk of developing ADHD symptoms.

“Other studies also show that too much screen use can have a negative impact on academic performance and attention. It is certain that for a teacher, it is a greater challenge to manage a group of students who are less motivated, less engaged and less able to maintain their concentration,” observes Mme Fitzpatrick.

Teachers who, precisely, have sounded the alarm over recent years, recalls the Federation of Education Unions. Parents have also shown themselves to be worried: a recent study by the Federation of Parents’ Committees of Quebec revealed that screen time among children is the main concern of Quebec parents.

With The Canadian Press and the Globe and Mail

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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