A UK mum has called for social media to be banned for under-16s after her teenage daughter took her life when nobody responded to her Snapchat photo.
Ruby Seal, 15, would spend her evenings and weekends attached to her smartphone switching between her different social media profiles to post pictures, her mum Julie said.
In the video above: Better regulation for social media
Julie, a college lecturer, believes the rise of social media fuelled her daughter’s insecurities, which ultimately led to Ruby’s death.
“Ruby, as a little girl, was funny, she was clever, she was witty. She had an answer for everything,” Julie said.
“But this started to fade away when she started to grow up and gain independence.
“Social media was definitely a big influence on her mood.”
Impact of social media
Julie blames social media for having a negative impact on her daughter.
Ruby would have a “bounce in her step” when she was getting the reassurance she wanted but would grunt and stay in her room when she wasn’t.
“She always had this low confidence and low self esteem,” Julie recalled. “I’m sure if social media wasn’t a thing Ruby would still be with us.”
Ruby made her first social media account aged 12 – and was under the watchful eye of her mum, who added her as a friend.
The schoolgirl then downloaded Snapchat and Instagram onto her iPhone, uploading a mix of selfies and statuses.
But things took a tragic turn when Ruby began self-harming due to low self-esteem and was admitted to a mental health facility for fortnightly visits.
She was signed off in July 2016 and the family moved from Newcastle upon Tyne to Carlisle in the UK for a fresh start.
‘She stopped going out’
But her addiction to social media was fuelled as she tried to stay in touch with her old friends.
Despite monitoring from her family and school, Ruby would spend the entirety of her free time switching between her social media accounts, distancing herself from social interactions.
“She had friends but she would always question if people genuinely liked her,” her mother said.
“She’d be invited to parties but would say it’s only because they wanted to make up the numbers.
“She stopped going out.
“She used to really be into skateboarding and Doctor Who before she became obsessed with Snapchat.”
Before her death, Ruby posted several cryptic messages online, as social media dominated her free-time.
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.”
After months of hiding herself away and becoming a social recluse, Ruby and her mum squabbled over her recent $360 phone bill.
Julie had turned the home’s WiFi off as an attempt to deter her daughter from social media use, but instead, Ruby used her 4G.
Her mother confiscated her phone but when she went to bed, Ruby logged onto her iPad to send messages to her friends on Snapchat – which according to friends – asked what they would do if she killed herself.
But when she woke up in the morning and noticed nobody had responded, Ruby waited until she was home alone to take her life.
She was found by her younger twin sisters when they returned to the family home hours later.
Her grandparents phoned for an ambulance but tragically Ruby was pronounced dead later that day.
An inquest in July 2017 ruled Ruby’s death as a result of suicide.
Julie claims Snapchat’s “streak” feature, which tallies direct snaps exchanged between friends over consecutive days, encouraged her addiction.
Two years on from Ruby’s death, Julie says her teenage daughters now suffer from mental health problems.
She’s launched a petition to campaign for ‘Ruby’s Law’, which would see the age restriction on social media sites raised by three years to 16. It’s so far gained 2,700 signatures.
“We will always miss Ruby and what has happened will always stay with us. But it’s not a stretch to say social media is having a negative impact on people’s lives.
“Children are becoming far more isolated.
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Julie wants someone to be held accountable and wants young people to be able to reach out for help.
“They should come to us for help and advice not to this virtual world. If people are to sign up to these social media accounts it is linked to something like their national insurance number or something like that.
“I’d like to see something put in place from the government or the social media platforms.
‘She used to be really into skateboarding and Doctor Who before she became obsessed with Snapchat.’
She also hopes it’ll take some pressure off parents.
“It’s easy to say ‘well get your kids off social media’ but that isn’t realistic.
“We’re starting to hear more stories about young teenagers struggling with their mental health and social media.
“I’d like to see the government or the social media platforms take responsibility so we never see another child lose their life due to a virtual world before they’ve lived a life in the real world.”