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