Brianna Ghey’s mother has called for her murder to be a “tipping point” in how society views the “messiness” of the internet, warning that a generation of anxious young people will grow up without resilience.
Esther Ghey said tech companies had a “moral responsibility” to restrict access to harmful online content. She supports a total ban on access to social media for those under 16 – a measure currently under debate in some legislatures, notably in Florida in the United States.
She believes her daughter was vulnerable after spending so much time online and without contact with her real friends. Ghey said she also believed Brianna would be alive if her killers had not been able to access violent content on the dark web as well as the regular internet as they planned her murder on February 11 last year .
Speaking to the Guardian, the 37-year-old food technologist said tech bosses were also to blame for the wave of anxiety and mental health problems affecting children, which she said had led to “a lack total resilience among young people. .
She said tech companies should think not only about Brianna’s murder, but also about “the number of young people who have taken their own lives” as a result of their harmful experiences online.
She took to watching pornography online is now difficult to form. “stable relationships”.
She warned that more children would die without action from tech companies and that “more people would suffer from mental health problems and, as a society, we will become less resilient and less empathetic.”
Ghey said the creators of smartphone apps and social media sites were “smart people” who, more than parents or governments, had a duty to protect the mental health of young smartphone users.
“They are the ones who created this technology. They’re the ones who got us into this mess in the first place. And I think it’s their responsibility to get us out of this mess,” she said.
She added: “I think they have a moral responsibility to protect young people and society in general, but particularly our young people, because they are the next generation of people who will lead the country. And, at the moment, I think it’s affecting them enormously.
Parents can’t be expected to control the Internet alone, Ghey said. “It takes a village to raise a child. We all need to come together and see what we can do, but I think really the responsibility lies mostly with the tech companies because they created all this technology. Maybe that they just didn’t realize how big it was going to blow up and what the impact would be. But these people are smart people. So how could they not have predicted what the impact would have been in the first place? »
When asked if she wanted companies like Apple and Google to think about Brianna’s death, she said, “I don’t think it’s just Brianna’s death that they should think about. What about the number of young people who have committed suicide? What about people with eating disorders? What about people who self-harm, people with anxiety? There is a wealth of (harmful) content out there for people who are really struggling right now and I think the use of smartphones has had a huge impact on that.
Brianna had a large number of followers on TikTok and dreamed of being “TikTok famous.” She had also formed close friendships with other transgender people online. But her mother believes that social media has done her more harm than good and that if she hadn’t been so anxious, she would have “found her tribe” in the offline world.
In-person contact is important, especially for young people and vulnerable people, she said.
“From face-to-face contact you get this empathy, this understanding and you realize that other people are human too. Whereas when you’re behind the keyboard, people feel like they can say whatever they want when they’re behind the screen. I think for kids we need to make sure they have real social interaction with people.
She compared social media to a drug treatment, in which regulators must assess whether the benefits outweigh the side effects. “I think the harms far outweigh the benefits of social media for young people,” she said.
Ghey is campaigning for the introduction of “kids’ phones” without social media apps, which are linked to their parents’ devices. Parents would be alerted whenever the child downloaded something or if they searched for alarming content.
Scarlett Jenkinson, who murdered Brianna with Eddie Ratcliffe, downloaded an app to access the dark web when she was just 14 and told the jury she enjoyed watching real-life videos of torture and death.
The two defendants, who were just 15 when they plotted and carried out the murder in Culcheth Linear Park, Warrington, carried out several internet searches for methods of murder.
“I think if there was technology to flag certain words, it would potentially still be with us. It would have made things a lot harder for Scarlett and Eddie,” Ghey said.