My teenage daughter accidentally killed herself after watching a TikTok video… I screamed when I found out
A heartbroken father has opened up about how his teenage daughter accidentally committed suicide after watching TikTok videos.
Liam Walsh, 48, from Basildon, Essex, cried when he learned his daughter Maia, 14, had died around midnight between October 6 and 7 last year.
According to Liam, she died when an attempt to harm herself failed after watching videos.
He told The Sun: “The videos she watched were disgusting. My little girl was a confident, intelligent, beautiful young lady.”
“She had so much to offer. She had no intention of dying that night.”
It was five months before police returned Maia’s phone to her distraught parents – after they struggled to get data, he claimed.
Now Liam is urging the police to work more closely with tech giants so he can figure out what drove his daughter to harm herself.
He added: “Children are dying whose data cannot be recorded at all.”
“Having access to these children’s phones can identify factors such as abuse, coercion, extortion and parental abuse.”
“It is so important.”
Liam said his daughter’s shocking death was “the most devastating thing that could have happened”.
He added: “She had already tried this successfully three weeks before. On her second attempt, tragedy struck and Maia died in the act.”
Maia’s mum called Liam at 3.15am last October.
He said: “I couldn’t sleep for some reason. My phone rang and Maia’s mother was screaming on the other end. She said, ‘Liam Maia is dead’.”
“I screamed when she passed the phone to the police. I begged that what she said wasn’t true. They said they would send a car to pick me up.”
When Liam arrived at the hospital, Maia’s body was laid out on a bed.
He added: “I was greeted by 15 officers – police officers, nurses and doctors. They all kept their heads down.”
“Maia looked like she was sleeping. I thought she would wake up. I just asked her what happened.”
Liam said his daughter is a “confident young lady who has been given love, care and education by her parents”.
He added: “She had wonderful friends. She was a young, fun, intellectual, caring young lady. She had such a bright future ahead of her.”
It was only when Maia’s iPhone was returned to her parents that her mother was able to step inside and see what messages had been sent in her final hours.
A video she liked showed her favorite game Minecraft and a dangerous message.
He added: “It’s disgusting. It makes kids hurt themselves.”
“She was a confident young lady and something influenced her. It cost her her life.”
“Her life at home and at school was very good. She excelled in education. She was really, really happy and handled everything with ease. That should not have happened.”
When Maia turned 13, she asked to use TikTok, and Liam agreed after researching the required age to use the app.
He said: “I told her to be careful because there are strange people in the world. I thought it would be okay if she used it.”
Liam said police need to take online safety more seriously.
He added, “I don’t think the responsibility for the loss of a child should lie with the parents who are on their knees in grief.”
“We didn’t make sense, we weren’t coherent. We were in such pain.”
“The police had to work to find out more quickly what happened. We pay taxes and expect the authorities to act if something goes wrong. But that doesn’t happen when a child dies.”
Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online said: “Maia’s death was such a tragedy and our condolences go out to her parents.”
“There are so many benefits of the internet, but as we hear these heartbreaking stories, we know there is much more that needs to be done to keep our children safe online.”
“It’s really important that parents and guardians have an open dialogue with their children about what they see online and give them guidance on what to avoid.”
“You should also monitor your child’s behavior and look for signs that something is wrong. Is it quieter than normal?”
“Are they much more obsessed with their smartphones than before? Finally, make sure to install parental controls on any devices they use whenever you can.”
Richard Collard, head of online child safety policy at the NSCC, said: “Suicide and self-harm content is still being presented to children on social media with alarming frequency and with devastating consequences.
“Parents can understandably be helpless at the level of harm their children are being subjected to and the speed at which technology is advancing. Keeping the conversations open about children’s online experiences is crucial, but parents cannot be left alone to protect their children.
“Online safety law must force technology managers to design their websites with child safety in mind, review their algorithms and ensure children can only view content that is appropriate.
“Regulators and tech companies need to listen to what children are experiencing, and what is needed is an online child safety advocate who champions young users and helps prevent future tragedies.”
A TikTok spokesman said: “Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family who are experiencing this tragic loss.”
“The safety of our community is our priority and we do not allow content that promotes or glorifies suicide or self-harm on our platform.”
“We will continue to prioritize protecting and supporting our community, working with knowledgeable partners and providing safety resources to those who need them.”
The app confirmed that it had removed the video Maia was watching and suspended the associated account.
A spokesman for Herefordshire Police said: “Our thoughts are with Maia’s family and friends at this very difficult time. It would not be appropriate for us to comment further until the court hearing is complete and all evidence has been presented.”
Maia’s investigation was due to start on May 31 but was adjourned before a new date.