A mother has revealed the tragic back story of her 13-year-old daughter's suicide as she campaigned to make tech bosses criminally liable for protecting children online.
Ruth Moss, 51, wants tougher social media regulations and new legislation which would hold tech firm chiefs to account.
Her daughter Sophie Parkinson, 13, died at home in Angus, Fife, in 2014, after she had viewed suicidal and self-harm posts on social media.
According to The Samaritans, suicide is extremely complex and seldom the result of a single factor. The role social media sites have in influencing some these inter-related causes have led to increasing calls that bosses of such companies be held to greater account.
Ruth and other campaigners want the owners of social media platforms to face jail time if they fail to protect children from seeing damaging content.
Ruth said she did everything she could to protect Sophie online but warned parents could never be 100% sure what their children were viewing.
She told how other parents had shamed her for giving Sophie a phone when she was 12 but warned children could get around even the best parental controls.
Ruth, a nurse from Edinburgh, said: “We gave Sophie a phone when she was 12 to give her a bit of independence.
“We did all the parental controls on the phone, we locked down our Wi-Fi at home, we did everything we could to be responsible.
“But she was still able to access harmful material when she had access to free Wi-Fi, on the bus to school or at cafes.
“When I went on her phone after she died I was met with the most harmful stuff, it was shocking.
“She had gotten around the age verification to set up a social media profile, which I think a lot of children do.
“There was really horrible imagery on her social media account, I was just bombarded with images of self-harm and suicide.
“We checked her phone and internet history like a lot of parents do, but parents can’t control everything, if kids want to get around things, they will find a way."
The UK government’s Online Safety Bill would require tech companies to remove illegal material from their platforms
But it would only hold tech bosses liable for failing to give information to the Ofcom watchdog.
A host of former cabinet ministers are among those who have put their name to an amendment to the bill demanding tougher action, including owners of social media platforms facing jail time if they fail to protect children from seeing damaging content.
Ruth added: “We have stringent health and safety in all other areas of work but not within these billion-pound tech companies, there is no accountability.
“Senior managers at these companies should be held criminally liable if they wilfully ignore the law.
“It should be clear that if they look at legislation and decided to do nothing with it then they are at risk of going to prison.”
If you are struggling to cope, call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI) or contact other sources of support, such as those listed on the NHS’s help for suicidal thoughts webpage.