My teenage daughter accidentally killed herself after watching a TikTok video… I screamed when I found out | The Sun

A HEARTBROKEN dad has told how his teenage daughter accidentally took her own life after watching TikTok videos.

Liam Walsh, 48, from Basildon, Essex, howled when he found out his daughter Maia, 14, had died around midnight between October 6 and 7 last year.

She died when an attempt at self harm went wrong after viewing videos, according to Liam.

He told The Sun: "The videos she was watching were sickening. My little girl was a confident, intelligent, wonderful young lady.

"She had so much going for her. She didn't mean to die that night."

It took five months for cops to return Maia's phone to her distraught parents – after struggling to access any data, he claimed.

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Now Liam is calling for police forces to work more closely with technology giants so he can find out what drove his daughter to harm herself.

He added: "There are children dying where their data can't be harvested at all.

"Getting into these children's phones can identify contributing factors like abuse, coercion, blackmail and parental abuse.

"It's so important."

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Liam said his daughter's shocking death was "the most devastating thing" that could happen.

He added: "She had already successfully tried this three weeks earlier, On her second try, it led to a tragedy, and this act cost Maia her life."

Maia's mum called Liam at 3.15am last October.

He said: "I hadn't been able to sleep for some reason. My phone rang and it was Maia's mum on the other end screaming. She said 'Liam Maia is dead'.

"I screamed as she passed the phone to the police. I begged for what she said to not be true. They said they were sending a car to pick me up."

When Liam got to the hospital Maia's body was laid out on a bed.

He added: "I was greeted by 15 officials – police officers, nurses and doctors. They all had their heads down.

"Maia looked like she was sleeping. I thought she was going to wake up. I just asked her what had happened."

Liam said his daughter was a "confident young lady who her parents have poured love and nurturing and education into".

He added: "She had wonderful friends. She was a young, funny, intellectual, caring young lady. She had such a bright future in front of her."

It was only when Maia's iPhone was returned to her parents that her mum was able to get in to see what messages had been sent in her final hours.

One video she had liked featured her favourite game, Minecraft, and a dangerous message.

He added: "It's sickening. It's grooming children into hurting themselves.

"She was a confident young lady and something influenced her. It cost her her life.

"Her home and school life was very good. She excelled at education. She was really really happy and took everything with ease. This shouldn't have happened."

When Maia turned 13 she asked to use TikTok, and Liam agreed after researching the required age to be on the app.

He said: "I told her to be careful because there are strange people in the world. I thought it would be okay for her to use."

Liam said police needed to take online safety more seriously.

He added: "I don't think when you lose a child the onus should be on 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 needed to work to find out what happened sooner.We pay taxes and expect engagement from authorities in the event of something going wrong. But that doesn't exist when a child dies."

Tony Neate, CEO at Get Safe Online, said: "Maia's death was such a tragedy and our heart reaches out unreservedly to her parents.

"The internet provides so many benefits but when we learn about these heart-breaking stories, we know that there is still so much more to be done to keep our children safe online.

"It is really important that parents and guardians keep an open dialogue with their children to learn what they are watching online and providing guidance on what they should be avoiding.

"You should also monitor your child's behaviour and watch out for signs that something might be wrong. Are they more quiet than normal?

"Are they on their smart phone much more obsessively than previously? Finally, make sure you install parental settings on all devices that they are using whenever you can."

Richard Collard, Head of Child Safety Online Policy at the NSCC, said: “Suicide and self-harm content is still being served up to children on social media with alarming frequency and with devastating consequences.

“Parents can understandably feel helpless to the scale of harm their children face and the speed with which technology develops. Keeping conversations about children’s online experiences open is crucial but parents cannot be left to protect their children alone.

“The Online Safety Bill must force tech executives to design their sites with child safety in mind, get their algorithms in check and make sure children can only see content that is appropriate.

"Regulators and tech companies must listen to children about what they are experiencing and an online child safety advocate is needed to fight for young users and help prevent future tragedies.”

A TikTok spokesman said: "Our deepest sympathies are with the family 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 prioritise protecting and supporting our community, working with expert partners and providing safety resources to those who need them.” 

The app confirmed it had removed the video viewed by Maia – and blocked the associated account.

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A Herefordshire Police spokesman 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 inquest hearing has concluded and all evidence has been presented."

Maia's inquest was due to begin May 31 but has been adjourned ahead of a new date.

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