Social media causes “untold problems” because it’s “almost impossible to keep track of things,” the principal of Molly Russell’s secondary school said in an investigation.
Sue Maguire told the North London Coroner’s Court that Hatch End High School didn’t “take a position” that students shouldn’t use social media, but said it “creates challenges … that we just didn’t have 10 or 15 years ago.” “.
She said Molly’s death in November 2017 came as a “complete and terrible shock” but added that the school had long warned students about the “dangers of social media”.
Giving testimony from the witness stand on Wednesday, Ms Maguire said: “Our experience with young people is that social media plays a huge, dominant role in their lives and causes endless problems.
“But we don’t take a stance that they shouldn’t use it – but it presents challenges for schools that we just didn’t have 10 or 15 years ago.
“There’s a level where I want to say that staying on top of social media is almost impossible, but we have to try and we have to act on the information as soon as we get it.”
When asked by Russell family attorney Oliver Sanders KC if the school was aware of the suicide and self-harm related content available to students like Molly on sites like Instagram, Ms Maguire said: “At the time we were shocked when we saw it.
“But to say we were completely shocked would be wrong because we have long warned young people about the dangers of social media.”
Deputy principal Rebecca Cozens, who is also head of the school’s security department, told the inquiry that once young people went “down the rabbit hole” on social media, they were “deep”.
Mr Sanders asked the witness if she was aware that Molly had access to the material she had made before her death. Ms. Cozens replied: “Not to that extent, no.”
When asked if there was any awareness of the type of material Molly had been dealing with, Ms Cozens said: “I don’t think there was any awareness at the time of how deep it was and how fast it was going to snow … and the intensity when you go down that rabbit hole, it’s deep.”
The head of health and wellbeing at Instagram’s parent company Meta and the head of community operations at Pinterest have both apologized when asked about content Molly was viewing.
Meta chief executive Elizabeth Lagone said she believes posts that the Russell family have argued “encouraged” suicide are safe when the teen looks at them.
Pinterest’s Judson Hoffman told the investigation the site was “not secure” when Molly used it.
Coroner Andrew Walker told the Russell family he would present his conclusions by the end of the week.