• San Mateo County Board of Education filed a lawsuit Monday
  • The suit alleges the platforms have contributed to the mental health crisis among students
  • It said schools have also "suffered concrete and tangible harm" from the platforms

A California school district has sued three popular social networks – TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat, alleging the platforms are designed to be purposefully addictive and deliver harmful content to youth.

San Mateo County Board of Education filed a lawsuit Monday claiming the apps have contributed to the mental health crisis among students.

"Using perhaps the most advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning technology available in the world today, defendants purposefully designed their platforms to be addictive and to deliver harmful content to youth," the lawsuit alleged.

It claimed excessive use of the platforms was the leading cause of an unprecedented increase in the mental health crisis among the youth. The addiction comes from algorithms that can be damaging to students, which could lead to depression and suicide.

"No one gets off the hook for the health and well-being of our young people," Nancy Magee, San Mateo County schools superintendent, told NBC Bay Area, adding the school district decided to go ahead with the lawsuit as getting social media companies to remove harmful content was difficult.

Apart from causing direct harm to the mental health of students, schools have also "suffered concrete and tangible harm" from these platforms, the suit alleged.

"For example, several schools in San Mateo County were vandalized in connection with the 'Devious Lick' TikTok Challenge which called on students to vandalize their schools," the school said.

The lawsuit claimed that social media companies optimized the algorithms and features of their platforms to exploit the vulnerabilities of young people.

"The YouTube, TikTok and Snap companies knowingly endanger the youth on their platforms, for profit. From whistleblowers and leaked documents, the public now knows that social media companies were keenly aware of the consequences of their tactics in targeting the vulnerabilities," the lawsuit read.

President Joe Biden, in his state of the union address last month, said the social media platforms should be held accountable "for the experiment they are running on our children for profit."

"This case represents one of the most serious issues facing the nation's students as outlined in the complaint, social media companies have ignited a serious mental health crisis through their deployment of artificial intelligence algorithms designed to keep children and teenagers tied to social media programs in unhealthy ways," Joseph Cotchett of Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy, the law firm that filed the lawsuit, told CBS News.

Google spokesperson Jose Castañeda told the outlet the company has "invested heavily in creating a safe experience for children across our platforms and have introduced strong protections and dedicated features to prioritize their well-being. For example, through Family Link, we provide parents with the ability to set reminders, limit screen time and block specific types of content on supervised devices."

A Snap spokesperson told the outlet that the company introduced a parental control tool to help monitor their kids' activity.

"At Snapchat, we curate content from known creators and publishers and use human moderation to review user generated content before it can reach a large audience, which greatly reduces the spread and discovery of harmful content," the spokesperson explained.

TikTok too reportedly said they have parental control and age-restriction features that will help to restrict messaging and live streams.

Illustration shows TikTok app logo