CT mom sues social media companies over daughter’s death

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A federal lawsuit was filed against Meta and Snap on Thursday.

ENFIELD, Conn. — Tammy Rodriguez, mom of Enfield, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Instagram parent company Meta and Snapchat parent company Snap after her 11-year-old daughter took her own life last summer.

The lawsuit claims her daughter struggled for more than two years with “extreme addiction” to Instagram and Snapchat and suffered severe sleep deprivation in the months leading up to her death.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of investing “billions of dollars to intentionally design their products to be addictive and encourage use they know to be problematic and highly detrimental to the mental health of their users.”

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“The financial models of these companies are based on how long someone stays on screen, and as a result, they find ways to keep kids addicted and consumed,” said State Senator Dr. Saud Anwar.

He is co-chair of the Children’s Committee. He asks that children’s data be protected. He said many don’t know that when they sign up they also give their information.

“Their data must be protected and cannot be used for advertising purposes or any form of illicit algorithmic means of keeping them anchored in their sites. Hopefully we will at least do something in our state about this,” did he declare.

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Rodriguez took her daughter to a therapist who told her she had “never seen a patient so addicted to social media” as the 11-year-old, according to the lawsuit.

Most social media sites, including Instagram and Snapchat, require users to be at least 13 years old before signing up.

Dr. Laura Saunders, a psychologist at Hartford HealthCare’s Institute of Living, said these guidelines were in place for a reason.

“Because they carry inherent risks,” she said. “The risks are there. It’s an anonymous veil when someone makes a comment or posts a photo or does things that they typically wouldn’t do if the interaction was in person,” Saunders said.

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She said the sites can be used responsibly, but parents should monitor activity.

“Knowing what they are doing, having access to their passwords certainly when they are under 14 or under 15 and being aware of what they are doing, what social media apps they are in” , Saunders said.

In response to the lawsuit, a Snap spokesperson sent FOX61 a statement that reads in part,

“While we can’t comment on the details of active disputes, nothing is more important to us than the well-being of our community. In fact, Snapchat helps people connect with their real friends, without some of the public pressure and social comparison features of traditional social media platforms, and intentionally makes it difficult for strangers to contact young people.We work closely with many mental health organizations to provide integrated tools and resources for Snapchatters in as part of our ongoing work to keep our community safe.

FOX61 has also reached out to Meta for comment, but has yet to receive a response.

Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at gmolina@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and instagram.

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