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William says children need more online protection after Molly Russell’s death

The Prince of Wales has said online safety for children “needs to be a prerequisite” after a coroner ruled social media contributed to the death of Molly Russell.

October 1, 2022
By Ted Hennessey, PA
1 October 2022

The Prince of Wales has said online safety for children “needs to be a prerequisite” after a coroner ruled social media contributed to the death of Molly Russell.

Senior coroner Andrew Walker said material viewed by the teenager on sites such as Instagram and Pinterest before her death in November 2017 “was not safe” and “should not have been available for a 14-year-old child to see”.

On Thursday evening William, who met Molly’s father Ian Russell in November 2019, said on Twitter “no parent should ever have to endure” what the family went through.

He went on: “They have been so incredibly brave. Online safety for our children and young people needs to be a prerequisite, not an afterthought.”

Molly Russell inquest
Molly Russell died in November 2017 (Family handout/PA)

Mr Russell said he hopes the inquest’s conclusion will be an “important step in bringing about much-needed change”.

Welling up as he concluded a press conference in Barnet on Friday, Mr Russell’s voice broke as he said: “Thank you, Molly, for being my daughter. Thank you.”

Concluding it would not be “safe” to rule Molly’s cause of death as suicide, Mr Walker said the teenager “died from an act of self-harm while suffering depression and the negative effects of online content”.

At North London Coroner’s Court on Friday he said: “At the time that these sites were viewed by Molly, some of these sites were not safe as they allowed access to adult content that should not have been available for a 14-year-old child to see.

“The way that the platforms operated meant that Molly had access to images, video clips and text concerning or concerned with self-harm, suicide or that were otherwise negative or depressing in nature.

“The platform operated in such a way using algorithms as to result, in some circumstances, of binge periods of images, video clips and text – some of which were selected and provided without Molly requesting them.

“These binge periods, if involving this content, are likely to have had a negative effect on Molly.”

Molly Russell inquest
Ian Russell, the father of Molly Russell, speaks to the media outside Barnet Coroner’s Court, north London, after the inquest into the death of his daughter (Joshua Bratt/PA)

William and the Princess of Wales offered Mr Russell their condolences while visiting the Troubadour White City Theatre in west London almost two years ago.

The prince asked him: “Do you think companies like Instagram are doing enough?”

Mr Russell also disclosed that William had been in touch with the family to offer his support.

William has aimed to tackle mental health struggles through the Heads Together campaign, which encourages the nation to talk about their psychological problems.

In February 2018, during a trip to Ark Burlington Danes Academy in White City, he warned pupils about the online pressures young women face and the “fakeness” of the cyber world.

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