Coroner Blames Instagram, Pinterest for London Teen’s Suicide

The stats seem to support this.

Coroner Blames Instagram Suicide Featured

For years we have heard about the influence of social media on teens who take their own lives, but just how culpable are they? A London coroner has answered this question. He officially decided against officially declaring a 14-year-old girl’s death a suicide. The coroner listed Instagram and Pinterest as contributing factors in the teen’s death, declaring her suicide was “an act of self-harm while suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content.”

London Coroner’s Report

Molly Russell died in 2017 by taking her own life. Her family’s attorneys have said that in the six months before she died, the 14-year-old showed an interest in 16,300 posts on Instagram by liking, sharing, or saving, with 2,100 of the posts self-harm related. She had 5,793 impressions and 2,692 close-ups on Pinterest in that same time frame.

Coroner Blames Instagram Suicide Teen
Image source: Unsplash

London coroner Andrew Walker said the social media companies “romanticized acts of self-harm” through their algorithms that include images, video clips, and text. He went as far as to say that the companies “sought to isolate and discourage discussion with those who may have been able to help.”

No matter your involvement with social media, you have to look at the amount of media that the teen showed an interest in on Instagram and Pinterest. That’s 22,093 – in six months. That’s nearly 250 in a day. Not that it isn’t possible, as we all know how easy it is to get stuck watching video after video or reading posts that reel you in. But 250 every day does seem excessive.

But was her excessive use of social media the fault of the algorithms? Did it lure her into that behavior? It’s a hard call. While it’s easy to think she did that on her own, we also have to look at how impressionable teenagers are, especially 14-year-old girls. Frankly, you couldn’t pay me enough to be 14 again.

Coroner Blames Instagram Suicide Pinterest
Image soruce: Unsplash

But is the fault with the social media companies or the people who publish the offensive posts? That’s where the question lies, although the coroner clearly believes the fault of the young woman’s suicide lies with Instagram and Pinterest. Do note that as the writer, I’m reporting the news and asking questions yet not passing judgment.

Alarming Teen Suicide Stats

Perhaps what’s most devastating about this case is the knowledge that it’s not an isolated incident. So many kids have lost their lives to suicide after reading social media, but many times it’s attached more to bullying. This study found that 13-year-old girls who spent two to three hours a day on social media, then greatly increased their use, were at a higher risk for suicide.

Not so surprisingly, parental control app Bark found a 25 percent increase in suicide and self-harm alerts for children from 12 to 18 years old in 2021. Teenage girls visited the ER for suicide attempts more than half as many times during the pandemic. The CDC’s early estimates for 2020 found more than 6,600 suicides among young people between the ages of 10 and 24.

Coroner Blames Instagram Suicide Social Media
Image source: Unsplash

Regardless of the decision handed down by the coroner and the level of culpability with Instagram and Pinterest, something could and should be done when it comes to teen suicide and its relation to social media. There is some work in progress, as Meta appears to have been dissuaded from launching an Instagram for kids. To look at a stat of more than 6,600 suicides among young people in one year, then look at another, where the rate was increased by 25 percent a year later, is deeply upsetting.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, dial 988 for the suicide hotline in the United States, 116 123 in the United Kingdom, and 833-456-4566 in Canada. Read on to find the numbers for other countries.

Image credit: Unsplash

Laura Tucker
Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox