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Connecticut Mom Sues, Says Instagram, Snapchat Complicit In Tween Daughter’s Suicide

Facebook and Snapchat are accused in a wrongful death suit of “causing and contributing to burgeoning mental health crisis” in connection with 11-year-old Selena Rodriguez’s July 2021 suicide death.

By Dorian Geiger
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A Connecticut mother has filed a federal lawsuit against Instagram and Snapchat, accusing the tech giants of causing her 11-year-old’s suicide last year.

Tommy Rodriguez has filed a federal lawsuit against Meta Platforms Inc. and Snapchat Inc. — the parent companies of the two social media platforms — of “defective design, negligence and unreasonable dangerous features" that she says led to the suicide of her young daughter, Selena Rodriguez, according to a copy of the case’s complaint, which Oxygen.com obtained. 

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California on Jan. 20.

Selena Rodriguez died by suicide in July 2021 after, lawyers for the family said in court filings, becoming dangerously addicted to Instagram and Snapchat.

“This product liability action seeks to hold Defendants responsible for causing and contributing to burgeoning mental health crisis perpetrated upon the children and teenagers in the United States by Defendants and, specifically, for the wrongful death of 11-year-old Selena Rodriguez caused by Selena’s addictive use and exposure to Defendants unreasonable dangerous and defective social media products,” the civil suit stated.

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages for the “emotional distress, diagnosed mental health conditions, medical expenses, loss of income and earning capacity, pain and suffering, and reputational harm,” resulting from Selena Rodriguez’s death. 

The class action suit alleged that the two social media companies have fostered a dangerous epidemic of online addiction in children and teenagers. The suit compared the effects of social media addiction to internet gaming disorder, citing the American Psychiatric Association's research.

According to the lawsuit, the social media giants have the ability to trigger “major mental health injuries, including depression, self-harm, eating disorders, suicide attempts and ideation, dissatisfaction with life, depression, and sleep deprivation.”

Prior to Selena Rodriguez’s death, she had become increasingly introverted and alarmingly dependent on social media, the family said. As her addiction deepened, her mother recalled, the 11-year-old — who was constantly glued to her phone — began to display violent behavior.

In one instance, Selena broke her older sister’s nose during a dispute that arose related to her social media use. 

"We definitely started noticing that she stopped interacting with us, and she was a very recluse toward the end of everything, and she just always wanted to be on the phone," her sister Destiny told ABC News. "I think she kind of grew dependent on it.".

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Some experts agreed that social media poses an insidious threat to developing minds.

"The internet and social [media] were not invented with young people in mind," Dr. Yalda Uhls told ABC News. "A third of their users in the world are under 18. And so there's a lot of people advocating for child-centered design — so, to think about the developmental phases and what is appropriate at each age and stage and embed that into the design."

Meta Platforms Inc. and Snapchat Inc. have both issued public statements since the federal lawsuit was filed.

“Our thoughts are with the families affected by these difficult issue,” a spokesperson for Meta told ABC News. “Given this is an ongoing legal matter, we're unable to comment further at this time."

Snapchat also declined to comment directly on the pending legal matter.

“We are devastated to hear of Selena's passing and our hearts go out to her family," a Snapchat spokesperson stated. "While we can't comment on the specifics of active litigation, nothing is more important to us than the wellbeing of our community."

Meta Platforms Inc. and Snapchat Inc. didn’t respond to Oxygen.com’s requests for comment regarding the federal lawsuit on Friday afternoon.

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