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Mom Sues Social Media Platforms After Daughter’s Suicide

— February 21, 2022

An 11-year-old takes her life, mom sues.

Selena Rodriguez of Connecticut took her own life when she was just 11 years old.  Now her mom has filed a lawsuit, blaming social media platforms, in part, for causing the girl’s death.  The lawsuit was filed late last month specifically against Meta and Snap.  Meta is the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, and Snap is the parent company of Snapchat.

In court documents, Tammy Rodriguez claims that the “defective design, negligence and unreasonable dangerous features of Meta and Snap’s products led her daughter, Selena Rodriguez, to die by suicide last July.”  The suit continues that Selena suffered “severe mental harm, leading to physical injury from using the social media platforms…the social media giants failed to provide adequate safeguards from harmful and exploitative content.”

“We’re suing [Meta Platforms Inc. and Snap Inc.] for designing an algorithm that is addictive to children,” said the family’s attorney Matthew Bergman, the founder of Social Media Victims Law Center (SMVLC).

Mom Sues Social Media Platforms After Daughter's Suicide
Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Selena evidently struggled “for more than two years” with an addiction to Instagram and Snapchat.  She was hospitalized for emergency psychiatric care and would allegedly become violent when her mother tried to take away her phone.

“We definitely started noticing that she stopped interacting with us, and she was a very recluse toward the end of everything, and she just always wanted to be on the phone,” Destiny, Selena’s older sister, said. “I think she kind of grew dependent on it.”

The lawsuit also claims that Selena was “solicited for sexual exploitive content and acts on numerous occasions by male adult users” while using the platforms.

Dr. Yalda Uhls, a founder and director of the Center for Scholars and Storytellers at UCLA, said, “The internet and social [media] were not invented with young people in mind.  A third of their users in the world are under 18.  And so there’s a lot of people advocating for child centered design – so, to think about the developmental phases and what is appropriate at each age and stage and embed that into the design.”

A spokesperson for Snap said the app works closely with “many mental health organizations to provide in-app tools and resources for Snapchatters as part of our ongoing work to keep our community safe.”  The company added, “We are devastated to hear of Selena’s passing and our hearts go out to her family.  While we can’t comment on the specifics of active litigation, nothing is more important to us than the wellbeing of our community.”

A spokesperson for Meta said, “Our thoughts are with the families affected by these difficult issues. Given this is an ongoing legal matter, we’re unable to comment further at this time.”

“I believe that they don’t intend for that to happen, but if the foreseeable consequences of their defective product result in those horrific outcomes, then they are responsible not only legally but morally,” Bergman said of the platforms.

Nicole A. Foubister, a clinical assistant professor in the New York University Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said younger users are more susceptible to addiction, because, “The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed and won’t be until their 20s   For an 11-year-old using social media, it can be very difficult to know when to stop, to know when to pull back, to know how to set appropriate time limits on oneself, because those parts of the brain that help us to do that aren’t developed.”


Mom sues social media giants for allegedly driving her 11-year-old daughter to suicide

Mother of 11-year-old who died by suicide sues social media firms Meta and Snap

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