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States ask for help with TikTok investigation into conduct related to children, teens

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Social media platforms, especially image- and video-based platforms like TikTok, are playing a substantial role in harming youth mental health, according to research.

In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released findings demonstrating a startling increase in challenges to youth mental health, youth experiences of violence and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among teenagers, especially teenage girls. This includes a finding that nearly one-third of teen girls seriously considered suicide in 2021, a nearly 60 percent increase from a decade prior. Other peer-reviewed research shows increased teen social media use is a significant driver of this crisis.

Amid the youth mental health crisis, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has joined 45 states and the District of Columbia in asking a state court to order social media company TikTok, Inc. to fully comply with an ongoing investigation into whether the company violated consumer protection laws.

As part of the multistate investigation, the state attorneys general seek to review internal TikTok communications to determine whether the company engaged in deceptive, unfair and unconscionable conduct that harmed the mental health of TikTok users, particularly children and teens.

“TikTok’s failure to produce documents crucial to our investigation is disappointing, which is why we’re taking them to court,” said Miyares. “It’s widely known that social media apps like TikTok negatively impact children’s mental health and if the company knew that and participated in behavior that violated Virginians’ consumer rights, we will hold them accountable.”

The filed brief therefore requests that the court compel TikTok to provide the information sought.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.