PARENTS have been urged to have open and honest discussions with their children about their social media use after a man live-streamed his suicide.
Distressing footage of Ronnie McNutt's suicide has gone viral and social media giants are now scrambling to remove the content.
The video was initially streamed on Facebook last week but has since been shared to other platforms such as TikTok.
TikTok is predominately used by 18 to 24-year-old's and its user policy states it is suitable for kids aged 13 and over.
While it's possible for kids to use the app safely with parental supervision, many stumbled across the harrowing video of 33-year-old Ronnie.
Bosses at TikTok are banning anyone who re-uploads it but the video has already been viewed by millions of people.
Many horrified app users say they saw the footage unintentionally, and have warned others to be wary.
If you're a parent you can't always control what your kids see, but experts have said there are ways to reassure your children if they have seen the video.
Speaking to The Sun, one expert said parents need to create a safe environment in order for their kids to be able to talk about the things they see online.
Jane Muston, mental health and clinical director at Vita Health Group said it's up to the adult to start the conversation.
"If you’re concerned that your children may have viewed this video or even be aware of it then, as hard as it may be, you need to start the conversation first.
"The key here is for parents is to have an open and honest discussion about this terrible situation.
"Acknowledge the trauma and also discuss how sad it is that someone can be so distressed that they take their own life."
Jane said that as a parent, it is your job to use this situation as a springboard to start discussions around mental health, suicide and self-harm.
"The key message to elaborate is that feeling suicidal or wanting to hurt yourself are temporary moments in time.
"Whilst they may feel as if they will never pass, with the right support and treatment life can definitely be worth living again. Every life is precious."
She added that talking openly and reassuring your children that they can come to you and discuss whatever is worrying them or causing them distress is vital.
"My message to parents is this; please don’t be scared to have these conversations, you don’t have to have all the answers or make things better straight away.
"You just need to know how to access expert mental health support for your children to keep them safe.”
Protecting the vulnerable
Every parent wants the best for their kids and one expert said it's important that the most vulnerable are protected.
Dr Lynne Green, who is the chief clinical officer at mental well-being tool Kooth said social media can be disruptive to mental health.
"Social media has taken the world by storm and there is a wealth of benefits it can provide as well as some destructive effects it can have on people’s mental health.
"As evident from this particular story, the negative impact can be unbelievably worrying and even dangerous."
Dr Lynne added that while many people respond differently to information, this is an individual response which depends on your personal circumstance and the environment you are in.
"It is vitally important that we allow our children and young people the opportunity to express their views, worries and questions – whatever they may be.
"You do not have to be an expert in the subject matter to listen – really actively listen to what your child is feeling and thinking.
"It is particularly crucial that we are able to respond safely to those who may be most vulnerable to adverse effects as a result of this video."
She said if talking is difficult then there are apps that young people can use if they are struggling.
"I would also urge digital and social media providers to examine the safety of their platforms and review how best they can balance the huge opportunities they offer with the potential risks they pose."
One life coach and mental health expert said kids need to know that you are there for them.
Dave Knight, who hosts the Sunday Settler podcast said parents need to make sure their kids are a priority.
He said: "As a parent myself, I see how it is so important to have open arms for our children if they witness something that can be terrifying and horrific.
"It is important to have conversations with our children and to give time to recognise and give perspective to what we are feeling.
"Whatever we have witnessed; observed; seen or heard, we can be sure there will always be serious unwanted events taking place at some point in our lives.
How to put time limits on social media apps
Facebook, Instagram and YouTube all have tools available to help cap social media usage.
Go to the settings page on either app and select either Your Time on Facebook or Your Activity.
At the top is a dashboard showing average time spent on the app you are using.
Underneath is the option to set up a daily reminder that will send an alert when you have reached the time you have allowed yourself.
How to set a time limit on YouTube
- Open the YouTube app, tap on the profile picture.
- Go to the settings menu.
- Open General and tap on Remind me to take a break option.
- From the pop-up menu, scroll to set a time limit. The minimum limit is 5 minutes and the maximum goes up to 23 hours 55 minutes.
- Tap 'Ok' after setting the optimal watch time limit.
"Our conversations with our children, therefore, need to be normalised as much as possible."
Dave said there are three keys steps parents should take to make sure kids feel as though they can talk openly.
"Make time – prioritise the time we give to our children in our busy lives.
"Make conversation – allow feelings to be shared and show acceptance to what we’ve seen and our experiences in relation to it."
He also said it's important for parents to make things normal.
He said parents need to create an environment that allows children and adults to talk and share their experiences.
A TikTok spokesperson said: "On Sunday night, clips of a suicide that had been live-streamed on Facebook circulated on other platforms, including TikTok.
"Our systems have been automatically detecting and flagging these clips for violating our policies against content that displays, praises, glorifies, or promotes suicide.
"We are banning accounts that repeatedly try to upload clips, and we appreciate our community members who've reported content and warned others against watching, engaging, or sharing such videos on any platform out of respect for the person and their family.
"If anyone in our community is struggling with thoughts of suicide or concerned about someone who is, we encourage them to seek support, and we provide access to hotlines directly from our app and in our Safety Centre."
Officials from Facebook said: "We removed the original video from Facebook last month on the day it was streamed and have used automation technology to remove copies and uploads since that time.
"Our thoughts remain with Ronnie's family and friends during this difficult time.”
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