It was a privilege to be visited by Ian and Janet Russell, bereaved parents of Molly, in October, shortly after the conclusion to the landmark Inquest into their daughter’s death.
14-year-old Molly Russell took her own life in 2017 after viewing tens of thousands of posts related to self-harm and suicide on online platforms. Molly’s family, her parents Ian and Janet, and her two sisters, have shown enormous bravery in shining a light on the dark online world which Molly inhabited in the months before her death.
It was a pleasure to hear about Molly, a bright, positive young woman, in her parents’ words.
Molly’s young life was tragically consumed by a “ghetto” (Ian Russell’s own word) of graphic suicide and self-harm content. We discussed the insidious role that addictive algorithms play in relentlessly amplifying, normalising – and even glamorising – this distressing content to teenagers.
In a landmark judgement, Coroner Andrew Walker ruled that social media contributed to Molly’s death. This is the first time that social media companies have been found responsible for a child’s death, and the first time that companies like Meta and Pinterest have been forced to participate in a British inquest.
I would like to give my sincere thanks to Ian and Janet Russell whose extraordinary campaigning, in their daughter’s memory, has shifted public understanding of online harm. I truly believe that, in sharing Molly’s story in such unflinching detail, they will bring about a safer online world for all children to inhabit.
In my role as Children’s Commissioner, I will fight for the rights of children, alongside the Russell family and the countless, voiceless other families who have paid the price for the tech industry’s corporate negligence. We must have an Online Safety Act which lives up to its name, and which finally enshrines children’s rights to protection in law.
The Russell family founded the Molly Rose Foundation in Molly’s memory. They asked that I share a list of organisations who can support young people in need. I am pleased to share these below – please pick up the phone and speak to one of these organisations if you, or someone you know, is struggling.
Shout is a 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone, anytime. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help
TEXT: MRF to 85258
Papyrus deliver awareness and prevention training, provide confidential support and suicide intervention
CALL FREE: 0800 068 41 41
EMAIL: [email protected]
TEXT: 07786 209697
ChildLine is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19
Online support: childline.org.uk
CALL FREE: 0800 1111
Samaritans are available round the clock, every single day of the year
CALL FREE: 116 123
EMAIL: [email protected]