Barry Soper: PM's son doesn't deserve cyber bullying - and neither do I

Image / iStock
Image / iStock

It's the age we live in and for some it's not a very pleasant age. Vile and mean-spirited people can tap away at their keyboards imparting venom to virtually anyone they don't like.

It's now a crime to deliberately harm others online but that doesn't stop them. The psychological damage done, particularly to the vulnerable young, largely goes unreported. It's usually only when someone takes their life or does self harm that the extent of cyber bullying comes to light.

John Key drew attention to it this week when he met with officials reviewing a package to review youth mental health services which was the brainchild of his science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman.

The Prime Minister said it was pretty awful out there for many young people in the so-called social media world. A better name for it would be anti-social media.

He cited the bile directed at his son Max, who last month read out on radio many of the vile messages he'd received.

Key offered his boy some consoling words, saying there's half the country out there that doesn't like him and suggested to Max not to take it personally.

But he doesn't deserve it and neither does anyone else.

This is an unfortunate new phenomenon for prime ministers' families. The last to occupy Premier House with a family was Jenny Shipley and her two children escaped largely unscathed, but then social media wasn't around to the same extent then, with the internet kicking off just 20 years ago.

The main channel for the bullies, texts, began in earnest just over a dozen years ago with the most insidious, Twitter, giving the mainly anonymous trolls and bottom feeders their platform almost exactly 10 years ago.

Since then it's been all on and of course it's not just the young who're the subject of the venom - we're all targets. Write an opinion piece like this and the keyboards come out and the nasty fingers go into overdrive.

The most common theme of my expressing a preference for a flag change this week was that I had no right to even express a view, and because it happened to be the same as the Prime Minister's, I was - of course - his sycophantic cheerleader.

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No doubt if the argument was to stick with the current flag I'd be in the pocket of the confused Labour Party, a claim that has been made in the past by the very same inconsistent trolls.

Point is, surely we're all entitled to have a view, we live in a democracy. You don't have to agree with it but disagreement doesn't warrant the bile that's daily dished up to those who hold a different point of view.

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