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Annalee Schott (Danja Barber Photography/Courtesy of Lori Schott)
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, call, text or chat the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. In Colorado, you can contact Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255. If you need help with grief and loss, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers advice and resources. You can also call the National SAMHSA Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP, with services in English and Spanish, toll free 24/7.
Editor’s note: This commentary discusses grief, loss and suicide.
“Anna was a sweet little cowgirl from eastern Colorado,” said Lori Schott about Annalee, her daughter.
Annalee Schott liked horses and dogs. She had an interest in the Humane Society.
She also spent a lot of time on TikTok. It was an addiction. The social media platform fed her a pernicious stream of material that exacerbated her anxiety and depression, never so much as when she viewed a live suicide online.
That’s why Annalee’s parents say TikTok bears responsibility for the death of their daughter, who took her own life in 2020 at 18.
Now Lori and Avery Schott of Merino are working to protect other children from the harms of social media. They’re in Washington, D.C., this week to advocate for legislation that would mandate health-protecting standards for social media companies. On Wednesday, Big Tech executives, including from TikTok, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the “Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.” On Thursday, the Schotts were scheduled to meet with Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who is also a proponent of better regulation of social media.
“My daughter died from a product,” Lori Schott told Newsline this week. “If we had a product in the world that was unsafe, we would address that. We have the USDA for agriculture, we have oversight. But these children continue to die. There’s mounting research that it impacts their mental health, and we’re just seeing the social media platforms put profit over our kids.”
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That research is increasingly conclusive and deeply alarming.
Last year, the U.S. surgeon general issued an advisory about the adverse effects of social media use on youth mental health. The advisory called for “urgent action” to protect children. 
“There is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said.
Social media can lead to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, social comparison, and low self-esteem, the advisory said. Critics also accuse social media platforms of being conduits for illicit drug distribution, images of child sexual abuse, so-called sextortion, self-harm-related content and other abhorent material.
A turning point came in 2021, when a former Facebook data scientist became a whistleblower and confirmed, through internal documents and testimony, what many had guessed — that the world’s largest social media company knowingly allows harm to children and contributes generally to the spread of misinformation and other societal ills for the sake of profit.
Now, outrage among families and public officials across the political spectrum appears to have reached a critical point.
Last year, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and a bipartisan group of attorneys general sued Meta in federal court, alleging that the parent company of Facebook and Instagram knowingly designed the platforms to addict children and teenagers. Weiser is also helping to lead a related investigation into TikTok. The Meta lawsuit is similar to other recent legal actions against social media companies that allege their platforms harm users.
Protection of youth mental health is especially urgent in Colorado, where suicide is a leading cause of death for young residents and there are inadequate resources to support youth with mental health challenges.
The hearing Thursday was remarkable in that, at a time when partisan divisions could hardly be wider, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were unified in their exasperation with the damage caused by digital platforms and the resistance to reform that was displayed by the executives who run them, including Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok’s Shou Chew.
Several bills are touted by lawmakers as promising safeguards against dangerous social media content, including the Kids Online Safety Act, which would implement a wide range of child-protecting standards for social media platforms; the STOP CSAM Act, which would provide more ways to hold social media companies accountable in child sexual abuse cases; and the EARN IT Act, which would remove the blanket immunity tech companies enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Bennet is among a bipartisan group of senators that has called for the creation of a whole new federal agency, in the manner of the FDA or FAA, to regulate digital platforms.
“Over the past fifteen years, social media platforms have wreaked havoc on our children’s mental health, undermined user privacy, and distorted market incentives … Big Tech companies have provided new vehicles for drug trafficking, harassment, and the sexual abuse and exploitation of children,” the senators said in a letter last week. “We believe this moment requires a new federal agency to protect consumers, promote competition, and defend the public interest.”
Lori and Avery Schott joined a new education campaign called Parents SOS, or Parents for Safe Online Spaces. It comprises 20 families from around the country who have lost children to online harms and now want to turn pain into action.
After Annalee’s death, her parents gained access to her phone and TikTok account.
“If anything gets me motivated to speak and gives me courage, I have her TikTok account on my phone. And to this day, I can open it up and see ‘For you,’ which basically feeds it to the viewer, things about anxiety, depression, suicidal content. They’re not protecting our children,” Lori Schott said. “I just think with all the power, and the money, astronomical amounts of money that they make, there’s just all this power and no responsibility.”
Big Tech firms so far have used all that power and money to fend off most meaningful regulation. But when political opposites like Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse are aligned, change is afoot. Every day that passes without better safeguards against toxic social media content, America’s kids are at risk.
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
by Quentin Young, Colorado Newsline
February 1, 2024
by Quentin Young, Colorado Newsline
February 1, 2024
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, call, text or chat the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. In Colorado, you can contact Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255. If you need help with grief and loss, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers advice and resources. You can also call the National SAMHSA Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP, with services in English and Spanish, toll free 24/7.
Editor’s note: This commentary discusses grief, loss and suicide.
“Anna was a sweet little cowgirl from eastern Colorado,” said Lori Schott about Annalee, her daughter.
Annalee Schott liked horses and dogs. She had an interest in the Humane Society.
She also spent a lot of time on TikTok. It was an addiction. The social media platform fed her a pernicious stream of material that exacerbated her anxiety and depression, never so much as when she viewed a live suicide online.
That’s why Annalee’s parents say TikTok bears responsibility for the death of their daughter, who took her own life in 2020 at 18.
Now Lori and Avery Schott of Merino are working to protect other children from the harms of social media. They’re in Washington, D.C., this week to advocate for legislation that would mandate health-protecting standards for social media companies. On Wednesday, Big Tech executives, including from TikTok, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the “Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.” On Thursday, the Schotts were scheduled to meet with Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who is also a proponent of better regulation of social media.
“My daughter died from a product,” Lori Schott told Newsline this week. “If we had a product in the world that was unsafe, we would address that. We have the USDA for agriculture, we have oversight. But these children continue to die. There’s mounting research that it impacts their mental health, and we’re just seeing the social media platforms put profit over our kids.”
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
That research is increasingly conclusive and deeply alarming.
Last year, the U.S. surgeon general issued an advisory about the adverse effects of social media use on youth mental health. The advisory called for “urgent action” to protect children. 
“There is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said.
Social media can lead to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, social comparison, and low self-esteem, the advisory said. Critics also accuse social media platforms of being conduits for illicit drug distribution, images of child sexual abuse, so-called sextortion, self-harm-related content and other abhorent material.
A turning point came in 2021, when a former Facebook data scientist became a whistleblower and confirmed, through internal documents and testimony, what many had guessed — that the world’s largest social media company knowingly allows harm to children and contributes generally to the spread of misinformation and other societal ills for the sake of profit.
Now, outrage among families and public officials across the political spectrum appears to have reached a critical point.
Last year, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and a bipartisan group of attorneys general sued Meta in federal court, alleging that the parent company of Facebook and Instagram knowingly designed the platforms to addict children and teenagers. Weiser is also helping to lead a related investigation into TikTok. The Meta lawsuit is similar to other recent legal actions against social media companies that allege their platforms harm users.
Protection of youth mental health is especially urgent in Colorado, where suicide is a leading cause of death for young residents and there are inadequate resources to support youth with mental health challenges.
The hearing Thursday was remarkable in that, at a time when partisan divisions could hardly be wider, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were unified in their exasperation with the damage caused by digital platforms and the resistance to reform that was displayed by the executives who run them, including Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok’s Shou Chew.
Several bills are touted by lawmakers as promising safeguards against dangerous social media content, including the Kids Online Safety Act, which would implement a wide range of child-protecting standards for social media platforms; the STOP CSAM Act, which would provide more ways to hold social media companies accountable in child sexual abuse cases; and the EARN IT Act, which would remove the blanket immunity tech companies enjoy under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Bennet is among a bipartisan group of senators that has called for the creation of a whole new federal agency, in the manner of the FDA or FAA, to regulate digital platforms.
“Over the past fifteen years, social media platforms have wreaked havoc on our children’s mental health, undermined user privacy, and distorted market incentives … Big Tech companies have provided new vehicles for drug trafficking, harassment, and the sexual abuse and exploitation of children,” the senators said in a letter last week. “We believe this moment requires a new federal agency to protect consumers, promote competition, and defend the public interest.”
Lori and Avery Schott joined a new education campaign called Parents SOS, or Parents for Safe Online Spaces. It comprises 20 families from around the country who have lost children to online harms and now want to turn pain into action.
After Annalee’s death, her parents gained access to her phone and TikTok account.
“If anything gets me motivated to speak and gives me courage, I have her TikTok account on my phone. And to this day, I can open it up and see ‘For you,’ which basically feeds it to the viewer, things about anxiety, depression, suicidal content. They’re not protecting our children,” Lori Schott said. “I just think with all the power, and the money, astronomical amounts of money that they make, there’s just all this power and no responsibility.”
Big Tech firms so far have used all that power and money to fend off most meaningful regulation. But when political opposites like Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse are aligned, change is afoot. Every day that passes without better safeguards against toxic social media content, America’s kids are at risk.
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.
Quentin Young is the editor of Colorado Newsline.
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Colorado Newsline provides fair and accurate reporting on politics, policy and other stories of interest to Coloradans. Newsline is based in Denver, and coverage of activities at the Capitol are central to its mission, but its reporters are devoted to providing reliable information about topics that concern readers in all parts of the state, from Lamar to Dinosaur, from Durango to Sterling.
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Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

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