A lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court Thursday against TikTok by the parents of a girl who allege the social media platform’s content is responsible for their 13-year-old daughter’s severe eating disorder.
The plaintiffs are identified only as D.S. and K.R. and their daughter as K.S. The allegations include strict product liability, negligence and invasion of privacy. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
“These harms were entirely preventable had TikTok not ignored the health and safety of its users, particularly children using its product, in its effort to rake in greater profits,” the suit states. A representative for TikTok, which has an office in LA County, could not be immediately reached.
K.S. opened a TikTok social media account in early 2020 and began accessing it on her cell phone without her parents’ consent, the suit states. K.S. was in remote school learning from March 2020 until May 2020 because of the coronavirus and the content TikTok directed at her escalated, the suit alleges.
“K.S.’s TikTok use resulted in a slow, but steady decline in her mental health,” the suit states. “K.S. gradually went from being someone who was social and gregarious to someone who was quiet and withdrawn.”
K.S. increased her hours watching TikTok videos and lost interest in other activities, the suit states. Unknown to her parents, TikTok had targeted their then-12-year-old child with “extreme and harmful eating disorder content,” the suit states.
“Once confident and outgoing, K.S. began withdrawing into herself,” the suit alleges, adding that she lost weight and began having circulation issues.
K.S.’s parents became increasingly concerned and confused, according to the lawsuit. They ultimately found out that TikTok’s app and algorithm identified and directed “exceedingly and unacceptably harmful content” to K.S., exploiting her vulnerabilities due to age and gender and encouraging her harmful food-related behavior, according to the suit.
K.S. was hospitalized in January for more than two weeks and since her discharge her parents have had to leave work and take other steps to keep their daughter safe and healthy, according to the suit, which further states the couple is now paying more than $1,300 a month for her ongoing treatment and recovery. K.S.’s parents believe their daughter will need years of counseling and that she will have a lifelong eating disorder, the suit states.
The families of a 9-year-old Wisconsin girl and an 8-year-old Texas girl have also filed wrongful death lawsuits against TikTok, alleging their daughters died after participating in TikTok challenges.