No end of issues with social media, says Molly Russell’s headteacher

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Sue Maguire yesterday said pupils at Hatch End High School had been warned about the “dangers of social media for a long time”. But she said Molly’s death was still a “complete and terrible shock”.

The 14-year-old was found dead at home in Harrow, north-west London, in November 2017. She had viewed online content related to suicide, self-harm, depression and anxiety.

Ms Maguire told North London Coroner’s Court: “Our experience of young people is that social media plays a huge, dominant role in their lives and it causes no end of issues.

“We don’t present a stance that they should not use it – but it presents challenges to schools that we simply didn’t have 10 years ago.

“There’s a level where I want to say it’s almost impossible to keep track of social media, but we have to try and we have to respond.”

The Russell family’s lawyer, Oliver Sanders, asked if the school was aware of the suicide-related content available to students on sites such as Instagram.

Ms Maguire said: “We were shocked when we saw it. But to say we were completely shocked would be wrong because we had been warning young people about the dangers of social media for a long time.”

Deputy head Rebecca Cozens, who is also head of safeguarding at the school, said it had not been aware of the “depth” and “intensity” of the content viewed by Molly.

She added: “When you’re going down that rabbit hole it is a deep one.” Instagram’s parent company Meta and social media site Pinterest have both apologised at the inquest for content Molly viewed.

But Meta executive Elizabeth Lagone said she believed posts which the Russell family argued “encouraged” suicide were safe when the teenager viewed them.

Pinterest’s Judson Hoffman admitted to the inquest the site was “not safe” when Molly used it.

Coroner Andrew Walker has told the teenager’s family he will be delivering his conclusions by the end of the week.

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