Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Slain rugby boy's girlfriend bullied on website

Hundreds of teens paid tribute to Stephen at his funeral and online, but some have used the ask.fm website to direct cruel comments at his 14-year-old girlfriend. Photo / Dean Purcell
Hundreds of teens paid tribute to Stephen at his funeral and online, but some have used the ask.fm website to direct cruel comments at his 14-year-old girlfriend. Photo / Dean Purcell

The girlfriend of an Auckland schoolboy fatally injured in an attack after rugby practice has been subjected to vicious online bullying.

Hundreds of teenagers took to social networking sites to pay tribute to Stephen Dudley, 15, who died in hospital on Thursday last week.

However, some online discussion turned ugly, with nasty comments aimed at Stephen's girlfriend, 14.

Her mother, who spoke to the Weekend Herald on the condition she and her daughter were not named, said the things written on the girl's ask.fm profile page were "disgusting".

She discovered the comments while checking what her kids were up to online. "I stalk all my kids' pages, to keep an eye on them," she said.

"Ask.fm is just horrible. It's basically a site where they can go and backstab - and it's all anonymous."

The website has come under fire after it was revealed young teens had been asked to provide explicit photos and subjected to extreme abuse while using it. Police have contacted the owners of the site, which they say enables bullying and has been linked to overseas suicides. Schools have taken action, alerting parents to the bullying risks associated with the site.

Stephen's girlfriend has disabled her ask.fm profile after she was subjected to horrific comments.

"I'm devastated," her mother said. "She's only 14. She's not a horrible girl, she is a beautiful girl, but they've got her believing everything they're saying.

"It's crazy. It's horrible to see ... I'm checking regularly to make sure she hasn't enabled it again."

She said parents should do everything possible to stop their children using the site. "Keep your kids off this site. It's all about hate. Do not use ask.fm at all ..."

She had a strong message to those using the site to bully and victimise others. "Grow up. It's disgusting. If you've got something to say to someone, say it to their face. And if you've got nothing nice to say - shut up."

Police urge extreme caution when using ask.fm. "The prime message is don't use it, to be honest," said spokesman Grant Ogilvie.


What is ask.fm?

• Ask.fm is the creation of brothers and internet entrepreneurs Ilya and Mark Terebin and is run from the company's headquarters in Latvia.

• The website allows users to pose questions to each other anonymously.

• As of April, the website had around 40 million users, with thousands signing up daily.

Staying safe on ask.fm

• NetSafe recommends preventing anonymous questions by choosing "do not allow anonymous questions" in the privacy settings.

• Block abusive users after receiving a second message by pressing "block" next to each question.

• Users can also use a "report" button to notify the site of abuse.

- NZ Herald

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