Kelly Makiha is the Rotorua Daily Post's head of news

Lizzie Marvelly v the trolls: 'They're full of hate and living a miserable life'

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Being an opinionated woman hasn't always been easy for Lizzie Marvelly, who admits cyberbullies and trolls once reduced her to tears.

But the singer and Weekend Herald columnist has a message for anyone who comes under attack from those she calls "inherently sad people".

"Speak out, don't suffer in silence ... These people are full of hate and they are living a miserable life."

SPEAK UP: SHARE YOUR STORY HERE

Marvelly said she had always attracted cyberbullies with people giving opinions on her music, but the online attacks had intensified since she was involved with the My Body My Terms campaign (which challenged sexual violence) and started writing columns in the Weekend Herald.

She said she once cried reading online comments following the publication of one of her first columns.

"It was the sheer volume and I was not used to it ... If you are having a down moment you can read something and think 'ouch'."

She had learned not to spend her days checking notifications and reading comments on Facebook and websites - although she still regularly blocked and reported people on Twitter and Facebook.

"It can get pretty bad. I had one this weekend because I apparently wrote I liked wine and dating - even though I actually wrote I like date scones - so I am apparently putting it out there I wanted to be raped."

Marvelly said she couldn't believe the comment and wondered how on earth the writer arrived at such a conclusion.

She said she was called names such as "slut" and "whore" and most of the hateful comments centred on insinuations she was promiscuous.

"It's not easy being an opinionated woman online.

"For me I have had to learn to switch off ... A lot of these trolls are inherently sad people."

She would never let online criticisms and nasty attacks prevent her from speaking her mind or change who she was, she said. "I think it would be impossible for me to do that. Then you are letting other people dictate your own sense of self. That's letting them win ... A lot of it is trying to remember who you are and what you are doing and not being too impacted by these people. To me it is online etiquette. Don't be a shithead. Be nice."

She said cyberbullies would never approach her on the street and tell her to her face what they wrote, so it shouldn't be okay to write it online either.

"But they are emboldened when they are behind a screen. They are human beings on the other end of those social media accounts."

Marvelly said she was reasonably hardened to the attacks but it "broke her heart" thinking teenagers were having to deal with the torment. "Being a teen is hard enough. We need to remember our human decency."

She said education was the first step to reducing cyberbullying, including talking to groups and young people about being good online citizens. "It's not just young people, it's also adults who need to remember their manners."

For extreme cases there should be consequences, she said.

She said last year's Harmful Digital Communications Act was a good start to treating the problem more seriously but it was timely now to review the act to make sure it was doing what was intended.

Where to get help:

• In an emergency: call 111
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633, or text 234 (available 24/7) or talk@youthline.co.nz or live chat (between 7pm and 11pm) http://livechat.youthline.co.nz/mibew/chat?locale=en&style=youthline
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155 (weekdays 11am to 5pm)
• NetSafe: 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723), www.theorb.org.nz

How parents can stop cyberbullying:

• Understand where your kids are going online, what they are doing and who they are talking to.
• Spend time in your child's online world.
• Accept and acknowledge how important technology is to your child.
• Don't ask your child if they're being cyberbullied. Use their language - have they seen mean texts circulating, humiliating photos or messages on others' Facebook walls?
• Don't downplay covert bullying. Don't dismiss it saying "don't worry ... it doesn't matter if you've been left out" or "just ignore the bullying". This tells the child that you don't take their situation seriously and can even convey that it's normal for others to treat them this way.
• Make it clear cyberbullying will not result in phone or internet access being taken away. Discuss this with your child and reassure them that's not how you'll deal with it.
• Teach your kids how to be good cyber citizens before they are in Year 4, when they may begin to venture online.
• Much of cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying is learned behaviour. Look at what behaviours you're modelling to your kids. Is sarcasm and point-scoring part of your family culture?
• Don't contact the other child but tell the school principal.

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