Brianna Ghey’s mother Esther calls for ban on social media apps for under-16s

Video report by ITV Granada Reports journalist, Lucille Brobbey

The mother of murdered teenager Brianna Ghey has called for smartphones to be made available for under-16s without social media apps.

She is also campaigning for searches for inappropriate material to be flagged to parents.

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe were both 15 when they killed Brianna, 16, with a hunting knife after luring her to Linear Park, Culcheth, near Warrington, on 11 February 2023.

Jenkinson had watched videos of torture and murder online.

Brianna Ghey was stabbed to death in a park in Cheshire in February 2023 Credit: Cheshire Police/PA

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, Esther Ghey said: “We’d like a law introduced so that there are mobile phones that are only suitable for under-16s.

“So if you’re over 16, you can have an adult phone, but then under the age of 16, you can have a children’s phone, which will not have all of the social media apps that are out there now.

“Also to have software that is automatically downloaded on the parents’ phone which links to the children’s phone, that can highlight key words.

“So if a child is searching the kind of words that Scarlett and Eddie were searching, it will then flag up on the parent’s phone.”

She said if the searches her daughter’s killers had made had been flagged, their parents would have been “able to get some kind of help”.

Scarlett Jenkinson had watched online videos of torture and murder before killing Brianna Credit: Cheshire Constabulary/PA

Ms Ghey said her transgender daughter had accessed pro-anorexia and self-harm material online and been “very protective” over her phone, which had caused arguments.

“If she couldn’t have accessed the sites, she wouldn’t have suffered as much,” she said.

Describing the internet as the “Wild West”, she said the focus of technology had been on making money rather than “how we protect people or how we can necessarily benefit society”.

Speaking about Brianna, Ms Ghey said: “She was absolutely full of life. She was such a character, she was really, really outgoing.

“She just, she loved attention. She loved to be on TikTok, she loved having all of the likes that she used to receive and she was the life and soul of the party really.

“Everyone who knew Brianna and anybody who ever met Brianna, would never forget her.”

Esther Ghey attends court. Credit: PA Images

Saying she feels the prison sentences handed to Brianna’s killers are correct, Ms Ghey added that she cannot forgive them.

She said: “I don’t carry any hate for either of them because hate is such a harmful emotion to the person that’s holding that.

“With regards to forgiving them, I think that no, not really.”

Ms Ghey said she is willing to meet the mother of Jenkinson, who she described as looking “completely broken” and is enduring an “absolutely horrific time”.

She said: “I also want her to know that I don’t blame her for what her child’s done.”

Ms Ghey added she feels like she failed Brianna. She said: “I think as a parent I am all Brianna had, I was the one who was supposed to look after her. Maybe if I had done things differently she would still be here.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan wipes her eye after watching the interview with Esther Ghey. Credit: PA Images

Responding to Ms Ghey’s proposals, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said the recently passed Online Safety Act had “tools” to tackle the issues raised, including age verification checks for inappropriate material.

She said: “This is a massive piece of legislation, probably quite a leading position that we’ve taken in really making sure that the platforms are accountable for proper age verification, for inappropriate things being unavailable and inappropriate things, most importantly, not being there.

“What we’re looking to do is to go one step further and ban the use of mobile phones in schools.”

Meanwhile, a vigil for Brianna is being held at 3pm on 11 February, the anniversary of Brianna's death, at the Golden Square Shopping Centre in Warrington.

Esther will be speaking at the vigil and students from Birchwood Community High School, where Brianna was a pupil, will perform music in her memory.

How could two seemingly ‘innocent’ teenagers became killers, concocting a kill list, luring Brianna into a park and stabbing her, in a "frenzied and ferocious" attack, 28 times?