Lack of Cell Phone Password Stymies Investigation of Suicide by 12-year-old

A friend who works in the public insurance field alerted me to the sad news of the suicide death of a 12-year-old girl named Alyssa Morgan, a student at Southeast Polk Junior High School in Des Moines, Iowa. On April 3, Morgan hanged herself in her family’s garage after writing a short note on yellow notebook paper: “I’m sorry … for everything … I just can’t anymore … I love you ALL Goodbye.”

The articles covering the story offer an increasingly familiar litany of factors that may have contributed to Morgan’s suicide: adolescence, peer bullying, sexual identity (Morgan had recently come out as bi-sexual), mental health issues, and so on.

There’s one aspect of this story, however, which deserves special attention. Morgan’s mother, Nicole, told The Des Moines Register that neither she nor the Des Moines police have been unable to unlock Morgan’s cell phone to review her communications on the day she died.

I really truly believe in my heart that somebody … had said something to my daughter that day because I know she was on her (mobile device) before she did what she did.

I know from first-hand experience how strongly kids resist requests for passwords and log-in information, but this case illustrates how important it can be to have that data. Regardless of whether you feel you should check in periodically on your child’s social media interactions (and the younger they are, the more you should), having the ability to do so could provide valuable peace-of-mind should a crisis arise.

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