Tauranga principals welcome new cyber law

By Brendan Manning

A Tauranga principal hopes new measures to tackle cyber bullying will have the "teeth" to prevent more students being victimised by online posts and malicious texts.

Justice Minister Judith Collins announced the measures after the deaths of several teenagers who took their own lives after relentless cyber bullying.

The new laws will make it an offence to use a communications device to cause harm, punishable by up to three months in jail or a $2000 fine.

Inciting someone to commit suicide will also be an offence, even if the victim does not attempt to take their own life, and will be punishable by up to three years' imprisonment.

Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said the school had a policy to address inappropriate cell phone usage at school.

"I think this will give us a bit more strength, because at the moment a child will have a fight and someone will put it up on Facebook and it's just a matter of trying to persuade a child - 'can I please have a look', and if they say no, well you can't do anything about it.

"I believe what Judith Collins is proposing will certainly give us a bit more teeth to what we can do."

Cyber bullying was probably the biggest social media problem teenagers faced, Mr Randell said. Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan said anything that could be done to address the negativity of social media and the abuse of it would be welcome.

"To have these powers would be valuable and useful in managing the issue of cyber bullying if we have concerns."


Otumoetai Intermediate principal Henk Popping said he would support the new laws.

"It will enable the schools to take formal action when there are instances of cyber bullying. With the new technology and social media around today, this strengthens the ability of both schools and society to put boundaries around it."

Mr Popping said he thought the laws would be effective as they weren't focused on any particular group of people.

"I think it covers the key points, cyber bullying is something that happens at all levels. "... It goes a long way to giving schools and police the ability to take some action when things occur."

While he hadn't had to deal with a youth suicide issue due to cyber bullying, Mr Popping said he thought it could help.

Rotorua girl Hayley-Ann Fenton committed suicide in 2009 after receiving threatening texts from the wife of her 27-year-old boyfriend, Pelesasa Tiumalu. Her death helped spark the new laws.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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