A mum has called for social media to be banned for under-16s after her teenage daughter committed suicide when nobody liked her status.
Ruby Seal, 15, would spend her evenings and weekends attached to her smartphone switching between her different social media profiles to post pictures.
In extreme cases she would spend hours locked in her bedroom posting several photos and statuses a day in a desperate bid to get likes.
In a bid to stop her, mum Julie switched of their home WiFi – but Ruby would use 4G instead and racked up data bills of £200 per month.
In the months leading up to her death the schoolgirl would share cryptic statuses and messages to her friends asking ‘If this was my last day what would I do?’ and memes claiming she was a “disappointment”.
But after a row with her mum about her phone bill Ruby uploaded a photo to her Snapchat feed – who according to friends – asked “I might as well kill myself in the morning.”
But when nobody responded, Ruby – who suffered with mental health issues – took her own life on 21 February 2017.
Julie, 42, believes the rise of social media fuelled her insecurities.
Now, two years on from her daughter’s death, the mum-of-three, Carlisle, Cumbria, is campaigning for a ‘Ruby’s Law’ where children under 16 are banned from accessing social media.
She, said: “Ruby as a little girl was funny, she was clever, she was witty. She had an answer for everything.
“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.
“I could tell when she wasn’t getting the reassurance she wanted.
“I’d pop my head into her bedroom and ask if she wanted to go to the shops with me and she’d just grunt and stay in her room.
“At the same time I’d notice when she had a good status or pictures as she’d come down for dinner sometimes and would have a little bounce in her step.
“She always had this low confidence and low self esteem.
“But it started to manifest when she was putting on these pictures and different posts and statuses. I suppose for reassurance from her peers.
“I suppose it’s similar to other children in her age group.
“But now knowing her mental state was quite poor at that time he had a negative impact on her.
“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 mum Julie who added her as a friend.
But months later the schoolgirl downloaded Snapchat and Instagram onto her iPhone, uploading a mix of selfies and statuses.
But by the age of 12 Ruby was self-harming due to low self-esteem and was admitted to CAMHS for fortnightly visits.
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.
Despite monitoring from her family and school, Ruby would spend the entirety of her free time switching between her social media accounts.
Julie, a college lecturer, said: “I got her a phone when she was about to start secondary school.
“That’s when they start to get a bit more independent.
“I didn’t mind her getting Facebook as I could check on what she was doing and who she was becoming friends with.
“It was just when Snapchat and Instagram started to become really popular.
“She had friends but she would always question if people genuinely liked her.
“She’d be invited to parties but would say it’s only because they wanted to make up the numbers.
“She was becoming really attached.
“She stopped going out.
“She used to really be into skateboarding and Doctor Who before she became obsessed with Snapchat.
“The last conversation we had was about her £200 phone bill.
“I had confiscated it but she managed to go on the apps on her iPad.
“She would always question if people genuinely liked her.
“So her reassurance would be the status and the Snapchats.
“There wasn’t a particular trend or celebrity that she obsessively followed.
“It was purely to get reassurance.”
But it wasn’t until the last year of her life that her social media accounts were dominating 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 £200 phone bill.
Julie 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 hang herself.
She was found by her younger twin sisters when they returned to the family home hours later. Her grandparents phoned for an ambulance but tragic Ruby was pronounced dead at Cumberland Infirmary 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.
Longer streaks are rewarded with special emojis but the tally goes back to zero if a day of messaging is missed.
Now two years on from Ruby’s death, mum Julie says her teenage daughters now suffer from mental health problems.
She now wants to help them as much as she can from the struggles Ruby faced.
She has launched a petition to campaign for ‘Ruby’s Law’, which would see the age restriction on social media sites raised by three years – which so far has 2,700 signatures.
The current age limit for social media is 13.
Julie said: “My girls have PTSD now from what has happened.
“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.
“On their phones, in their rooms.
“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.
“That way people are accountable.
“I’d like to see something put in place from the government or the social media platforms.
“Hopefully that will help take the pressure off parents.
“We don’t really have a choice’ or any say in the matter.
“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.”
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.”
To sign the petition click here; https://www.change.org/p/prime-minister-make-social-media-illegal-for-under-16-yr-olds