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Enfield mom sues social media companies following daughter's death by suicide

A federal lawsuit was filed against Meta and Snap on Thursday.

ENFIELD, Conn. — Enfield mom Tammy Rodriguez has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Instagram's parent company, Meta, and Snapchat's parent company, Snap, after her 11-year-old daughter died by suicide last summer.

The lawsuit claims her daughter struggled for more than two years with an "extreme addiction" to Instagram and Snapchat and experienced severe sleep deprivation in the months leading up to her death.

The suit accuses the companies of investing "billions of dollars to intentionally design their products to be addictive and encourage use that they know to be problematic and highly detrimental to their users’ mental health."

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"These companies' financial models are based on how long somebody stays on the screen, and as a result, they find ways to keep the children addicted and consumed in this," said state senator Dr. Saud Anwar. 

He is co-chair of the Committee on Children. He is calling for children's data to be protected. He said many don't know that when they're signing up, they're also giving away their information.

"Their data should be protected and can not be used for advertisement or any form of wrongful algorithmic ways of keeping them entrenched within their sites. I'm hoping that we will at least in our state do something about this," he said.

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Rodriguez brought her daughter to a therapist who told her she "had never seen a patient as addicted to social media" as the 11-year-old, according to the lawsuit.

Most social media sites, including Instagram and Snapchat, require users to be at least 13 years old before signing up.

Dr. Laura Saunders, a psychologist at Hartford HealthCare's Institute of Living, said those guidelines are in place for a reason.

"Because they do come with inherent risks," she said. "The risks are there. It's an anonymous veil when someone is making a comment or posting a picture or do things they would not typically do if the interaction was in person," Saunders said.

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She said, the sites can be used responsibly, but parents should monitor activity.

"Knowing what they're doing, having access to their passwords certainly when they're below 14 or below 15 and being aware of what they're doing, what social media apps they are into," Saunders said.

In response to the lawsuit, a Snap spokesperson sent FOX61 a statement that reads in part,

"While we can’t comment on the specifics of active litigation, nothing is more important to us than the wellbeing of our community. In fact, Snapchat helps people communicate with their real friends, without some of the public pressure and social comparison features of traditional social media platforms, and intentionally makes it hard for strangers to contact young people. We work closely with many mental health organizations to provide in-app tools and resources for Snapchatters as part of our ongoing work to keep our community safe.” 

FOX61 also reached out to Meta for comment but has not heard back yet.

Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at gmolina@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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