A novelist who blames Instagram for the suicide of her daughter has demanded a crackdown on social media sites.
Nicola Harlow says 11-year-old Ursula killed herself after viewing ‘horrific and distressing’ images on the social network.
The accusations will heap fresh pressure on the internet giant, which is owned by Facebook. MPs and campaigners have accused it of dismal failures in policing the troves of ‘suicide porn’ on the site.
Ursula leapt to her death from a bridge in January last year shortly after finishing school for the day. She sent a last text message to her mother, reading: ‘I love you, so so sorry.’
Ursula Keogh, 11, was reported missing by her mother on January 22 after she sent a troubling text which read 'I love you but so sorry'
Novelist Nicola Harlow (l) told Bradford Coroner's Court it had been 'strange' to see her daughter Ursula (r) turn back and say 'I love you' as she walked to school on the morning of her death. Now she is calling for a crackdown on images of suicide and self-harm on social media
Miss Harlow, 53, is the second parent to blame their child’s suicide on Instagram this year. Ian Russell has accused the site of helping to kill his 14-year-old daughter Molly.
Speaking publicly about her daughter’s death for the first time, Miss Harlow said a dramatic regulatory overhaul was needed to protect children online
The Open University lecturer and novelist said Instagram’s popularity was having a damaging effect on the mental health of vulnerable youngsters.
‘I believe that Instagram content was a factor in my daughter’s death. She certainly had been looking at these inappropriate images,’ said Miss Harlow.
‘They were horrific and disturbing. If I could turn back time I would have destroyed her phone. Instagram creates a fantasy life and children are too young to realise that it’s not real life.
‘They need protecting. They don’t realise the influence it has on them.’
Nicky Harlow (left) said she would smash her daughter's phone if only she could go back in time. Right: Ursula Keogh on a trip to Berlin in 2015, aged 9
Her daughter – described as a model pupil – was able to sign up to the photo-sharing site and access thousands of disturbing images despite being significantly below its age limit of 13.
Ursula began accessing ‘suicide sites’ on Instagram shortly after she started at the Lightcliffe Academy secondary school close to the family’s home in Halifax in September 2017.
Miss Harlow noticed self-harming scars on her daughter’s left arm shortly after it emerged she was being exposed to disturbing pictures. The discovery prompted Miss Harlow to confiscate her daughter’s phone, provoking a furious reaction she likened to that of an addict.
This map shows Ursula's last known movements: She left school and is believed to caught the bus. She was seen on the bridge before her body was found at Paris Gates
She said she deeply regretted her decision to return the phone after being advised by doctors that her daughter’s response ‘happened a lot’.
Calling for immediate regulation of social media companies yesterday, the mother of two said: ‘Children should not have the means to access the content my daughter did. It is difficult for modern parents to police it. My daughter showed me the nice messages between her and her friends but not the concerning images she’d viewed.’
She called for legislation to ensure that underage children cannot easily bypass social media age restrictions, adding: ‘Instagram and Facebook both need to police their sites.’
Miss Harlow twice