A heartbroken mum has told how her 15-year-old Snapchat addict daughter took her life after a desperate quest for “likes” online.
Ruby Seal used the site to send anguished messages to friends saying: “I might as well kill myself in the morning.”
Then she committed suicide when no one replied.
She was found dead by her twin sisters during school half term.
Last night devastated mum Julie, 42, told the Sunday People: “Social media was like a drug to Ruby – she was addicted.
“The more obsessed she became the less she engaged with real life.
“She became withdrawn and isolated on it – always in her room, looking for likes, responses and answers to her problems on her phone from people who could not give them.
“It was a place for her to hide from reality while also seeking validation from her peers.
“It overrode everything else at a time when she also became mentally really unwell.
“I tried everything – turning off the wi-fi, confiscating her phone, going through her messages – but she always found a way to access it.
“Social media contributed to her death.”
Ruby enjoyed skateboarding and Doctor Who before becoming obsessed with Snapchat at 13. She spent up to eight hours a day online after school and began suffering mental health problems.
Ruby started self- harming, which her mum believes she learned about on Instagram .
Julie, a college lecturer who has three other teenage daughters, said: “She was addicted to the instant communication on Snapchat.
“It’s faster-paced than Facebook or Instagram and she loved that.”
Julie claimed Snapchat’s “streak” feature, which tallies direct snaps exchanged between friends over consecutive days, encouraged her addiction.
Longer streaks are rewarded with special emojis but the tally goes back to zero if a day of messaging is missed. Julie, of Carlisle, Cumbria, is now calling for Ruby’s Law – a ban on social media sites for under-16s.
She said: “I’d like to see the Government and social media platforms take responsibility so we never see another child lose their life due to the virtual world before they’ve lived a life in a real world.”
Since Ruby’s death in February 2017, Julie has been piecing together her daughter’s online life by speaking to her friends.
She was horrified to realise her daughter posted a string of disturbing messages in the lead-up to her death.
On the night before she died, Julie quizzed her daughter about a £200 phone bill for mobile data.
Ruby sent two messages to friends in Newcastle saying: “I think I might as well kill myself in the morning.”
Neither replied, though it is unclear if anyone saw the messages. Next day she killed herself.
A string of teenage suicides have been linked to social media including Molly Russell, 14, who took her life after viewing self-harm content on Instagram.
Jessica Scatterson, 12, killed herself in Warrington in April 2017 after being emotionally overwhelmed by social media without the skills to cope.
Single mum Julie, who also has twins Kitty and Florry, 14, and Maisy, 19, added: “Enough is enough. This stuff is accessible to kids all the time. They are tied into it because everyone else is doing it. They don’t want to be left out.
“Ruby would show me a photo of someone, going ‘Why don’t I look like that’ and wishing she didn’t wear glasses.
“I told her not everything is like you see on there but she didn’t get it.
“She got upset when a photo didn’t get as many likes and asked whether it was because of the way she’d done her eyebrows or how she was smiling. She came to my room crying, her bicep bleeding. She showed me her arms covered in marks, telling me she didn’t feel worthy of love. I felt awful.”
Ruby was referred to Child & Adult Mental Health Services for treatment and began regular counselling.
She was signed off in July 2016 and the family moved from Newcastle upon Tyne to Carlisle for a fresh start.
But her addiction to social media was fuelled as she tried to stay in touch with her old friends.
Her messages included: “I might pop down to A&E and see if they can stitch my life back together.”
Another said: “How I sleep at night knowing I’m a disappointment and knowing no one cares about me.”
One of her old pals, a 17-year-old boy who did not wish to be named, said: “I feel really bad now. At the time I thought maybe she was trying to be funny.
“One or two friends commented telling her not to be silly and they loved her but nobody else really said anything or liked it. Now I see that she might have wanted help. I wish I’d asked her.”
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Ruby’s death is heart-breaking. It’s crucial that young people have somewhere to turn. Childline – 0800 1111 – is here 24/7 whatever their worry.”
A Snapchat spokesman said: “We encourage everyone to have open and honest conversations about what they’re doing online.”