Editorial: Calling time on cyber bullying

By Kristin Macfarlane

This week our paper has featured two separate stories regarding a "scary new" online trend.

On Tuesday, we reported on a Rotorua mother who was concerned about the impact of naming and shaming teenagers on Facebook gossip pages and the effect it was having on the targets after another Rotorua gossip page had been set up. She referred to the act as a "scary new trend" which was also a form of cyber bullying.

In today's paper, Rotorua coroner Dr Wallace Bain is repeating calls for laws to be urgently set up to control cyber bullying in light of another teenager taking her life after she set up a Facebook page targeting herself.

Dr Bain found 17-year-old Micaela Pinkerton-Stothers from Tokoroa took her own life on July 24, 2011 - the day after she and her boyfriend split up.

It was first believed she may have taken her life because of cyber bullying as a rumour page on Facebook had hateful messages posted stating Micaela had been pregnant and had an abortion.

However, it turned out the teen hadn't been targeted by bullies.

However, in the findings he highlighted the case of 15-year-old Hayley-Ann Fenton who took her own life after being sent threatening messages from her former boyfriend's wife.

Dr Bain said cyber and text bullying was a worrying trend and wanted new laws introduced around digital media.

He repeats previous calls for "laws to control cyber bullying and cyber communication be brought forward as a matter of some urgency".

Cyber-bullying is something many people do, whether some think they're doing it or not.

People - I'm sure we all have these kinds of people on our friends/followers/following lists - mock others, criticise people and more. Some find it funny, some don't think twice about it but I'm sure there are just as many people who are negatively impacted by these kinds of cyber-bullying, yet a lot of it goes unnoticed.

Also in today's story, it seems there may soon be some changes to the laws around the internet.

A spokeswoman from Minister of Justice Judith Collins' office has said the minister had asked the Law Commission to fast track a review of the laws around telecommunications and the internet.

Minister Collins is expected to make a public announcement in the next two weeks around new laws regarding incitement to instigate suicide whether the person commits suicide or not and updating existing digital laws.

Let's hope this stamps out the scourge of cyber bullying.

What do you think?

Email editor@dailypost.co.nz, text DP then your message to 021 241 4568, or write to editor, PO Box 1442, Rotorua.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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