John Key: Max gets a lot of haters - I do worry

John Key with his son Max. He says his son gets a lot of flak online. Photo / Instagram
John Key with his son Max. He says his son gets a lot of flak online. Photo / Instagram

Prime Minister John Key has told officials working on a youth mental health programme he is particularly worried about cyberbullying - saying for many young people "it is really awful out there" on social media.

Mr Key yesterday met with officials who were reviewing aspects of a $62 million package to improve youth mental health services. The initiative, launched in 2012, has its foundations in a report by science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman that highlighted the risks facing young New Zealanders.

On More FM this morning, Mr Key was asked about the flak his son Max had taken from some after his new job as a DJ on George FM.

Last month the Prime Minister's son read out on air a series of negative messages directed at him through the radio station's social media pages.

"They asked him to read some out ... to be honest, he handles it amazingly well.

I often say to him, because he gets a lot of haters on his Instagram or Facebook or whatever, but he also gets a lot of people supporting him, but I often say to him, you appreciate half the country is not going to terribly like me ... just don't take it personally," Mr Key said.

"I do worry, it is a bit of a load for any young person to carry. But to be truthful it's not limited to Max ... I was just saying to the [youth mental health programme] reviewers who came in, I do worry about this online, cyberbullying, not just for Max but for every kid - it is really awful out there actually on Facebook and Snapchat, you know."

Last June, a wide-reaching law that will criminalise online communications deemed deliberately harmful passed into law.

The Harmful Digital Communications Bill is designed to crack down on cyberbullying, but opponents have warned it is too vague and could be used as a weapon against free speech.

It created a new offence of sending messages or posting material online that were intended to cause harm, and did so. Children under 14 can't be charged with cyberbullying and those aged 14 to 16 will go into the youth justice system.

When the law was passed, Act Party leader David Seymour told the House that it was a "knee-jerk" reaction that was a "case study in bad law making", and would have a chilling effect on free speech.

- NZ Herald

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