Mother Sues After Daughter Commits Suicide Over Social Media Harm 

Mother Sues After Daughter Commits Suicide Over Social Media Harm 

Social Media Youth Harm Lawsuits Arise Out Of Dangerous Practices of Meta and Snap

After the unfortunate and tragic death of her 11-year-old daughter, a mother from Connecticut decided to pursue a lawsuit against the big names in social media, Meta and Snap. 

Tammy Rodriguez, the plaintiff in this case, claims that the “defective design, negligence, and unreasonable dangerous features” used by Meta and Snap led to her daughter committing suicide in July of 2023. 

Meta and Snap are both parent companies. Meta owns Facebook and Instagram, while Snap owns Snapchat. All of these apps are frequently used by children under the age of 18 and in many cases, even younger down to the age of 10. 

The Rodriguez lawsuit was filed on January 20th in the U.S. District Court.

Tammy Rodriguez states, in an interview with ABC News, “We’re suing for designing an algorithm that is addictive to children.”

She also states that Selena struggled with social media addiction for years before her eventual suicide and that she often had poor self-esteem and depression.  

She also goes on to explain that her daughter would often get physical, aggressive, and even violent when she tried to confiscate her phone.

She told ABC, “We definitely started noticing that she stopped interacting with us, and she was a recluse toward the end of everything, and she just always wanted to be on the phone. I think she grew dependent on it.” 

Unfortunately, part of being online as a woman means that you’ll likely experience sexual exploitation, as well. One study even showcases how dangerous the internet is for women compared to men. 

According to a report by the United Nations, a staggering 73% of women have encountered some form of cyber violence. The nature of these experiences varies, ranging from sexual harassment to cyberstalking, and they significantly contribute to women's sense of insecurity on the internet. This stark reality underscores the urgent need for more robust online protections and the importance of educational efforts to teach all our young children about the potential risks and how to navigate the digital space safely.

The legal complaint filed by Selena’s mother also explains that Selena had been a victim of online sexual exploitation and that she had been solicited for sexual images by older men in multiple cases. 

This only further proves that social media is not a safe place for children and that these social media platforms should be taking steps to protect youth from its harm. Protecting them from social media—which there are many things that could be done—inherently protects them from the dangers of these horrible situations 

Read: What You Should Know About the Facebook Mental Harm Lawsuits

What Are the Risks of Young People Using Social Media?

The risks of teens and tweens using social media include addiction, warped self-image from constant comparison, cyberbullying, and sexual exploitation like the Rodriguez family suffered.

The Allure of Instant Gratification

Instant admiration is one of the reasons why social media becomes addictive. The immediate dopamine rush from a 'like' or a 'follow' behaves like those tactics used in casinos and rewires a growing brain, creating expectations of rapid rewards that reality seldom matches.

The Danger of the Comparison Trap

For adolescents, the struggle to find their true selves and to develop a healthy body image is further complicated by the relentless comparison that social media can cause.

Every flick of the thumb is a glimpse into someone else's 'seemingly superior' life, looks, or talents, which can corrode self-esteem and warp perceptions since young people don't yet have the reasoning skills to understand that these posts aren't showing reality.

The Harsh Reality of Cyberbullying

In the digital age, the hell that is bullying doesn't end when the final school bell rings; it extends into every inch of their life through their phones and social media.

Cyberbullying presents a major challenge for young people, where hurtful comments and bullying campaigns can have an insidious and profound impact on their emotional health. The relative anonymity afforded by these platforms can embolden individuals to engage in harmful behaviors that they would never do IRL (in real life), leaving the victim feeling isolated and helpless.

The Threat of Online Sexual Exploitation

Social media, while an avenue for connection and creativity for many young people, can unfortunately also be a way for predators to engage in the sexual exploitation of minors. With the masking of true identities online, it becomes increasingly challenging to safeguard teens and children against those with malicious intentions. This internet can therefore become a place where vulnerable youth might unknowingly encounter grooming or be coerced into sharing personal and explicit content by older people who they believe to be someone else or were tricked into sending.

Social Media Use and Its Affect on Children and Adolescents 

Social media usage amongst children is a relatively new phenomenon. Many millennials didn’t get their first cell phone until high school or later, and many of them had limited access to the internet before that.

However, in Gen Z, children have their own cell phones by the age of 10 or 12. In most cases, kids are using iPads, laptops, and phones by the age of 2 or 3. And, of course, this has a great impact on their social and behavioral development. 

The U.S. Surgeon General’s 2023 study titled “Social Media and Youth Mental Health” outlines the following evidence linking social media with poor mental health. They found the following: 

  • Teens who use social media for more than three hours per day are twice as at risk of developing poor mental health outcomes 
  • 2 in 3 teens are exposed to hate-based content on social media “often” or “sometimes” 
  • Teen girls and LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to experience harassment and bullying on social media platforms
  • Nearly 29% of teens feel overwhelmed by the drama on social media when interacting more than usual
  • Approximately 43% of teens report experiencing cyberbullying at some point
  • 1 in 3 teens have a presence on social media platforms before the age of 12, which correlates with a greater risk for mental health issues

It’s simple. Children and teens who use social media frequently are more at risk of experiencing the bad effects of social media. Not only that, but they’re also at risk of developing issues operating normally in real life. 

For example, children and adolescents who use social media frequently may have difficulty forming relationships or having face-to-face conversations. 

Read: Mark Zuckerberg’s Defense Against Social Media’s Responsibility to Protect Young People

Social Media Platforms Have Not Done Enough to Protect Underage Users

Despite the known risks associated with early social media exposure, the major platforms have largely remained inefficient in verifying users' ages.

The implementation of age verification processes has been lackluster, often relying on self-reported birthdates that can be easily falsified; just type in whatever birthdate you want.

This relaxed approach has allowed individuals under the recommended age of 13 to create accounts and engage in the digital social sphere without the maturity to navigate the complexities and potential harms of these environments. Some teens and children have been found to have over 10 different IG and Snap accounts to further allow them to do what they want on these platforms.

Social media companies must take a more proactive and technologically focused stance on age verification to protect young users from content and interactions that could adversely affect their mental well-being and development.

One of those steps could be involving parents more. Another could be more intelligent age detection.

After all, do you know if your child has Snapchat? Do you know how many snaps they sent today, to whom, and what they included? Are you sure your teen hasn't created social media accounts you don't know about using alternative emails, names, and friends' phones?

If your child or teen is addicted to social media, you may wonder what your next steps should be and how you can help them.

If they’ve faced harm because of social media or worse—like in the case of Tammy Rodriguez's daughter who decided that suicide was the only option left—you may be able to file a lawsuit against these social media conglomerates, including Meta and Snap.

By filing a social media youth harm lawsuit, you’ll not only be able to seek the justice and compensation that you and your family deserve for the hardship you experienced, but you’ll also be able to help in an important movement against these social media companies.

By putting financial pressure on them, they may be forced to make changes that keep children and teens safe from further damage. 

But how do we prove this link, especially in individual cases like the Rodriguez’s? Building a case is what LLN and our partner firm Dolman Law Group does best, and we can help find the connection between social media harm, negligence, and its effect on your child or teen so we can be successful in our social media harm lawsuits.

We’ll build a strong case that shows how the negligence of these companies directly affected your children. To do so, we’ll use evidence from studies like the ones we spoke about above and interactions your child had on social media. 

We also speak with experts about teen development, social media influence, and more to help build the strongest case possible and provide you with the highest chance of success. 

We Can Help You If Your Child Experienced Harm on Social Media

If your child has grown dependent on social media and it’s causing them harm or has been harmed by social media in some other way we mentioned, we’re here to help you get the compensation you and your family deserve through a social media harm lawsuit

The best way to make them listen is to demand financial compensation and to change their practices. Your case can help make a difference.

Lawsuit Legal News and our partner firm are standing by to help.

Contact us as soon as possible to schedule a free case consultation.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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