In April 2017, 15-year-old Ruby Seal committed suicide just hours after expressing suicidal thoughts on Snapchat. After seeing how much social media negatively affected her daughter, mother Julie Seal has been trying to pass a social media ban for kids under 16.
Current minimum age requirements for most social media platforms are 13, giving many young teens like Ruby open access to the platforms at an early age. Popular media like The Sun recently began promoting the story of Ruby’s “social media addiction,” and now Seal is trying to clear the media’s portrayal of Ruby.
“Ruby was not an ‘addict to social media, nor did I say that it was to blame for her death,” Seal writes in an email to Parentology. “Ruby had issues with her mental health, which were exacerbated by social media.”
Seal clarifies that Ruby used social media more as a “crutch.” “She sought answers, communication and reassurance through Snapchat, Instagram, etc.”
The loss of her daughter inspired Seal to launch a campaign called “Ruby’s Law,” which would force social media platforms to raise their age restrictions to 16. She hopes it would minimize the negative effects social media has on children’s self-esteem and the probability of its use leading to isolation.
Through Ruby, Seal saw how unrealistic photos on social media brought down her daughter’s self-esteem and how constant comparisons increased anxiety and depression. Seal believes increasing the minimum age requirement on social media would allow kids to better develop without the negative influence of social media – they will be better prepared to handle social media later in life.
She acknowledges how hard it is for parents to curb their kids’ social media use, “The pressure parents face to allow their children to be included in this generational phenomenon is immense and the research speaks for itself. Parents allow kids to be on social media — to fit in with others, but most parents do not know to what extent it is being used and what they are doing.”
The “Ruby’s Law” petition is live on Change.org and has received over 3,000 signatures.
Seal wants to change the way social media is used through “Ruby’s Law.” “We don’t encourage our children to drive before they are old enough, or drink alcohol…because we’re protected by laws and this enables us to use our moral compass wisely with our children, it helps them stay out of trouble, get an education and respect society.”
“Ruby’s Law’s” description sums up Seal’s hopes: “I’d like to see the government or the social media platforms take responsibility so we never see another child lose their life due to a virtual world before they’ve lived a life in the real world.”