The mother of Jools Sweeney, 14, who committed suicide, is fighting social media companies over his search history

Pic: Ellen Roome

A grieving mother who has “absolutely no idea” why her son killed himself at 14 is fighting social media companies to turn over his search history.

Jools Sweeney was found dead in April 2022. A coroner could not rule his death a suicide because they could not prove he was in a “suicidal mood”, his mother Ellen Roome told Sky News.

Ms Roome says he showed no signs of depression and police have ruled out any third party involvement.

As a result, she says she has “absolutely no idea why he’s not here anymore.”

After reading about other teenagers committing suicide after viewing harmful content online, Ms Roome asked several social media companies about her son’s browsing history to shed light on why he died.

Ellen Roome and her son Jools Sweeney.  Photo: Ellen Roome
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Ellen Roome and her son Jools Sweeney (right). Photo: Ellen Roome

But she says: ‘Since my son’s death I have not had access to information to see what my son was looking at that could have contributed to him taking his own life.

“Parents should have the right to full access to their child’s social media accounts while they are alive (to protect them) or if they die, as in my case.”

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She launched one petition to have the issue debated in parliament. But in light of the general election on July 4, all parliamentary petitions will be automatically closed on May 30.

This leaves her with just a few days to reach her goal of 100,000 signatures.

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‘I have no idea why he’s not there’

She tells Sky News: “It’s very ambitious, but I need 85,000 signatures to reach my target, which could potentially give me access to Jools’ information to find out why he died.”

Asked about the impact of her son’s unexpected death, she adds: “It’s impossibly difficult, it’s horrifying, it consumes me.

“I have to try the one thing we haven’t tried yet and that is social media.

“Maybe that’s not the case. But I don’t understand why social media companies wouldn’t show me if they have nothing to hide.”

A quarter of children addicted to devices

A recent one Report of the House of Commons Education Committee suggested that children’s screen time increased by 52% between 2020 and 2022, with a quarter reportedly using their devices in an addictive way.

MPs on the committee said that while the Online Safety Act will play a role in protecting children from harm online, full protection will not come until the law is fully implemented in 2026.

They suggest that the next government should ban all under-16s from having phones.

Photo: Ellen Roome
Image:
Photo: Ellen Roome

Photo: Ellen Roome
Image:
Photo: Ellen Roome

Ms Roome said: “I think there is a bigger problem than banning under-16s.

“Because they still have access to other devices. That’s a bigger problem. We have to monitor what’s on those devices. It’s shocking what a child can see today.”

Online safety campaigner Ian Russell, whose 14-year-old daughter Molly killed herself after watching harmful material, said such a ban would “do more harm than good” and “punish children for the failure of tech companies to protect them”. .

“The quickest and most effective route to protecting the online safety and wellbeing of children is to strengthen the Online Safety Act in the next parliament and we call on all parties to commit to this in their manifestos,” he said.

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Ms Roome added: “Businesses need to step up and stop waiting for the law to make some changes.”

She describes her son as “very beautiful” and a “very polite young man”.

“I appeal to everyone to share my petition. I want this to be discussed in parliament. Parents need the right to protect their children.”

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call your nearest Samaritans office or 1 (800) 273-TALK

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