THE DEATH of a Wiltshire boy who looked up suicide videos on social media was a “terrible indictment of the excessive amount of this very harmful content online”, a government minister said.

Bradley Trevarthen hanged himself at home in Durrington, Wiltshire, in January 2018. The 13-year-old’s death was ruled an accident at an inquest earlier this year.

But David Ridley, senior coroner for Swindon and Wiltshire, took the unusual step of writing to the government department responsible for regulating social media firms. He raised concerns that young Bradley was influenced by what he had seen on the internet.

The teen was said to have viewed a notorious video by YouTuber Logan Paul, in which the web star visits a Japanese forest known as an area to which people travel to take their own lives. He logged on to discussion forums on websites like Reddit where the subject of suicide and self-harm was discussed.

“What was apparent from the evidence was that Brad was becoming increasingly aware of the concept of suicide and exploring methods,” Mr Ridley said.

All coroners have a responsibility to write to relevant authorities following an inquest if they can see an opportunity to prevent future deaths.

In his report, addressed to then digital minister Margot James MP, Mr Ridley wrote: “My concern here is that some of the material Brad was exposed to was of a nature that a young person of his age should not be exposed to as they cannot, in my view, properly assimilate and process the information that they view.

“The amount of information on the subject of self-harm and suicide that is currently available to young persons on the internet goes beyond freedom of expression and I am concerned that the extent of such information normalises actions which at the end of the day are simply not normal.

“It is not normal to self-harm and it is not normal to perform an act which results in that person's own death.”

He added: “It is totally right that we should be open about mental health issues, but the abundance of information that is out there on self-harming and suicide methods is a step too far.”

In a reply to that letter, published on the government website on Friday, Ms James said ministers were looking at ways to force social media companies to take more responsibility for the safety of those accessing their sites. A new duty of care would require companies to take swift action on material encouraging self-harm or suicide.

She added her condolences: “It is indeed a terrible indictment of the excessive amount of this very harmful content online.”

The issue of dangerous online material influencing youngsters into taking their own lives has grown in prominence in recent years. London teen Molly Russell killed herself in 2017. Looking through her profile on social media site Instagram after the 14-year-old’s death, her family discovered content about depression and suicide.Her father, Ian, said Instagram had "helped to kill" his daughter.