Baroness Beeban Kidron, 5Rights, responds to death of teenager Frankie Thomas who took her own life after viewing harmful content online:
An inquest into the death of 15-year-old Frances-Rose Thomas, known as Frankie, has concluded that the teenager took her own life after reading graphic online content relating to self-harm and suicide that she accessed through a school laptop and iPad while on school premises.
Baroness Beeban Kidron, Chair, Digital & Children’s Rights Charity, 5Rights said,
“I pay tribute to Frankie’s parents for their bravery and attempts to secure clarity on what led to Frankie’s suicide. The material that Frankie had access to in the months and days leading to her death - in spite of being registered as a child - is horrendous. It should not have been made available to a child, yet Frankie was offered it in industrial quantities. It is heart-breaking that yet another family has to pay such a tragic price for the lack of protections for children and young people online.
“Since Frankie’s death Wattpad has cooperated in in only a very limited way with the coroner’s investigation. Frankie’s parents, Judy and Andy, have also tried to access information about what Frankie was exposed to on Instagram. Four requests to Instagram were met, after nearly a year, with automated emails that contained no helpful information and they were offered no spoken contact. This inhuman failure to respond to grieving parents is symptomatic of a sector that treats children as collateral damage to their concentration on growth and profit.”
“This is not simply about one platform, one school or one child. The material that Frankie had access to in the period leading to her death delivered to her computer and iPad extreme pornography, self-harm and multiple ways to commit suicide are still being accessed by children and young people across the globe.
“It is time to usher in a new era of regulation and responsibility across the tech sector in which digital products and services are subject to minimum safety standards as a norm - an era in which children’s rights are sacrosanct and grieving parents are not left banging on the closed door of Silicon Valley desperate for information that could shed light or bring them closure. Frankie took her own life surrounded by material that normalised and encouraged self-harm and suicide. This is not the digital world that children deserve.”