Home Tech The British mother of the boy who committed suicide seeks the right to access his social networks

The British mother of the boy who committed suicide seeks the right to access his social networks

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The British mother of the boy who committed suicide seeks the right to access his social networks

A woman whose 14-year-old son committed suicide is calling for parents to have the legal right to access their children’s social media accounts to help understand why they died.

Ellen Roome has gathered more than 100,000 signatures on a petition calling for social media companies to hand over data to parents after the death of a child.

Under current law, parents have no legal right to see if their child was being bullied or threatened, was viewing images of self-harm or other harmful content, or had expressed suicidal feelings online or sought help with mental health issues. .

Roome said this was “completely incorrect”. Her son Jools Sweeney took his own life in 2022, leaving no clues as to what may have led to his suicide. He did not seem depressed and in the hours before his death he seemed happy to his friends and family.

“It’s really horrible. If a child had died from an illness, an autopsy would be done and what was wrong would be discovered. “I’m not going to bring my son back and I’m not going to stop crying, but maybe I’ll just understand what happened in those last hours,” he said.

“Because an hour and a half before he left our house – and there is a video of him saying goodbye to his friend – he was fine. So what changed or what went through his mind? And social media can give me the answers.”

As their petition has gathered more than 100,000 signatures, there is likely to be a debate in parliament on the issue, although this will only happen after the general election and is subject to the discretion of the new petitions committee.

Roome is part of a group of 11 parents who met with government and Ofcom representatives with the aim of giving parents an automatic right to their deceased children’s data.

The group includes Ian Russell, whose daughter Molly ended her life after viewing harmful content online, and the parents of Archie Battersbee, who died after possibly taking part in a social media “challenge”.

Roome said: “It could be that, I don’t know, I was being harassed by some weirdo, it could be body problems, it could be depression, it could be a ‘challenge’, or it could not give me any answers. . “I really have to, as a mother, try to find the answers.”

Coroners were given new powers under the Online Safety Act, which came into force on April 1 this year, to get help from Ofcom to access social media and online gaming data when investigating possible suicide of a child.

However, parents still do not have the right to access this data themselves and the ruling only applies to children believed to have taken their own lives, and not to those, for example, murdered by someone they are dating. have communicated online.

Roome added: “In my case particularly, he is no longer here, so what privacy rules do we protect him from? It’s like we’re protecting the social media giants. I just feel like he is completely wrong.”

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