OCDSB Joins Toronto School Boards in Lawsuit Against Social Media Giants

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has joined the Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic School Board, and Peel District School Board to commence legal action against tech giants Meta Platforms Inc. (Facebook and Instagram), Snap Inc. (SnapChat), and ByteDance Ltd. (TikTok) for disrupting student learning and the education system.

According to the lawsuit,  social media products, negligently designed for compulsive use, have rewired the way children think, behave, and learn, leaving educators and schools to manage the fallout. These addictive properties have compromised students’ ability to learn, disrupted classrooms, and resulted in increasing mental health harms.

According to recent research:

  • Approximately 91 % of Ontario students in grades 7 – 12 use social media daily*
  • 45 % of these students use social media for five hours or more a day*
  • 1 in 10 Ontario students report feelings of pervasive nervousness when not using their electronic devices, and that this discomfort is relieved by “use.”*
  • We are facing a youth mental health crisis with many reporting poor or fair mental health (38%), and feeling as though they are in serious psychological distress (26%).*
  • Almost one-third (30%) of students report being cyberbullied at least once in the past year.*
  • 21.8% of Instagram users aged 13-15 stated they were the target of bullying over the product within the previous seven days.**
  • One in five report harming themselves and/or have seriously contemplated suicide.*

 (*Source: CAMH’s 2021 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS); **Source: 2021 Internal Instagram BEEF Survey Results)

“As the largest school board in Eastern Ontario, we are committed to the well-being of our students,” said Pino Buffone, Director of Education, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. “The crisis caused by social media giants is putting children and youths at risk. Our students, society’s next generation of leaders, deserve better.”

According to the OCDSB, students are experiencing an attention, learning, and mental health crisis because of prolific and compulsive use of social media products. The fall out of compulsive use of social media amongst students is causing massive strains on the four school boards’ finite resources, including additional needs for in-school mental health programming and personnel, increased IT costs, and additional administrative resources.

The boards are advancing claims in excess of one billion dollars. This action calls on social media giants to remediate these enormous costs to the education system and to redesign their products to keep students safe.

Neinstein LLP, a Toronto-based litigation firm, has been retained by the school boards to represent them in their fight for social media change. The goal of the litigation is to provide school boards with the resources needed to support student programming and services, and to respond to the school-based problems social media giants have caused.

“The impact of social media on our school system is irrefutable,” said Duncan Embury, Partner, Head of Litigation, Neinstein. “The most advanced tech developers in the world 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. Social media companies should be held accountable for their negligence and the harm they have caused to our schools, and our community at large.”

School boards will not be responsible for any costs related to the lawsuit unless a successful outcome is reached.

The litigation is not focused on taking away access and use of social media. We understand that social media is a part of life, and a communication tool that is used by many in our community. That said, social media companies know about the negative impact of their products on children but continue to ignore and dismiss their own findings. The lawsuit calls on social media giants to make their products and/or services safer for youths and to compensate district school boards for disrupting their educational mandate.

To learn more about the lawsuit and to follow developments, please visit the Schools for Social Media Change Alliance at