Laws for cy­ber bul­ly­ing

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

The govern­ment’s pro­posed anti-cy­ber bul­ly­ing laws are be­ing wel­comed by youth de­vel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion Youth­line.

The laws which are to be in­tro­duced into par­lia­ment later this year in­clude mak­ing it an of­fence to post ma­te­rial on­line that is grossly of­fen­sive, in­de­cent, ob­scene, men­ac­ing or know­ingly false.

Of­fend­ers will be pun­ish­able by up to three months im­pris­on­ment or a $2000 fine.

The proposals also in­clude cre­at­ing a new of­fence of in­cite­ment to com­mit sui­cide, even in sit­u­a­tions when a per­son does not at­tempt to take their own life, pun­ish­able by up to three years im­pris­on­ment.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Auck­land Youth­line Stephen Bell says hav­ing clear laws in place will be a pos­i­tive step to­wards cre­at­ing a safer en­vi­ron­ment for young peo­ple.

‘‘Hav­ing clear ex­pec­ta­tions means we can build a strengths-based en­vi­ron­ment for our young peo­ple which says cy­ber bul­ly­ing is not OK and there will be con­se­quences for any­one who doesn’t ad­here to those ex­pec­ta­tions,’’ he says.

Youth­line helpline coun­sel­lors say in re­cent months they have no­ticed higher fre­quency of peo­ple con­tact­ing them about cy­ber bul­ly­ing.

The cen­tre

doesn’t

col­lect spe­cific statistics on cy­ber bul­ly­ing as it comes un­der the um­brella of bul­ly­ing, which is con­sis­tently one of the top 15 prob­lems peo­ple call Youth­line about.

A helpline spokesper­son says many of the peo­ple who con­tact them feel that there is no es­cape from cy­ber bul­ly­ing.

‘‘Cy­ber bul­ly­ing seems to be an ex­ten­sion of what has gone on in school,’’ the spokesper­son says.

‘‘Many of those who con­tact us do ap­proach their school, but feel there’s lit­tle they can do. They also worry that ap­proach­ing the school could ag­gra­vate the prob­lem even more.’’

The cen­tre also hears from par­ents who of­ten face bar­ri­ers look­ing at dif­fer­ent fo­rums to en­sure their kids are safe.

Many par­ents know of Face­book, but may not be aware of new so­cial me­dia sites, as they are pop­ping up.

Some of the fo­rums where cy­ber bul­ly­ing has been no­ticed are Face­book, Tum­blr and Ask.fm.

Mr Bell says com­mu­nity ef­fort is needed to help main­tain safe use of cy­ber fo­rums.

‘‘The best ad­vice we can give to par­ents if their child is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing cy­ber-bul­ly­ing, or any form of bul­ly­ing, is to help them de­velop a net­work of sup­port by go­ing with them to talk to a teacher or coun­sel­lor.’’

Un­der the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion an ap­proved agency would be set up as the first port of call for com­plaints, while se­ri­ous com­plaints could be taken to the district court which would be able to sanc­tion take­down or­ders.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ju­dith Collins says peo­ple need­ing help will get fast sup­port in­clud­ing li­ai­son with web­site hosts and ISPs to re­quest take-down or mod­er­a­tion of clearly of­fen­sive posts.

‘‘No-one should be sub­ject to this kind of cowardly at­tack – now with the right sup­port and mod­ern laws in place, vic­tims will no longer have to suf­fer.’’

Photo: WAR­WICK SMITH

Big prob­lem: Youth­line says that many of the peo­ple that con­tact their helpline feel there is no es­cape from cy­ber bul­ly­ing.

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