Cyber-bullies and their families will be eligible to upwards of $5000 a year of cover under a new policy from insurer Medical Assurance Society.

The new cyber-bullying insurance policy, which came into effect this week, will help provide support to those, and their families, facing online bullying, as well as those contributing to the problem.

Martin Stokes, Medical Assurance Society chief executive, said it makes sense to extend the cover to the bully and their family as well as the victims because the consequences will be similar for both parties.

"It makes sense to provide care and support for the family of the person who may be the perpetrator as well," Stokes said.


"They [bullies] will [face] exactly the same consequences, which will be counselling and potentially re-location and so on."

Cover includes, but is not limited to, the cost of counselling, loss of income, changing schools or private tuition, and expenses to hire a cyber security consultant.

"We're not prescribing what it has to or not cover, it's costs that you can relate back to that event or that series of events," Stokes said.

Stokes said the decision to add a cyber-bullying policy made sense as it was an issue that was particularly relevant in today's society.

"It came about with some thinking internally, when we think about protecting what's important to our customers, are we really thinking [in a modern way]?" he said.

"At the end of the day it's a real 21st century risk, and policies are generally covering 20th century risks, so we're wanting to recognise that that's new, significant and affecting more and more people.

"We recognise that there are some new things that are affecting them [our customers] that aren't really covered elsewhere."

According to New Zealand online safety organisation Netsafe, online abuse, harassment and bullying complaints have reached a new high in the first half of 2018.


"I would say it's [cyber-bullying] gone from an awareness issue 3-4 years ago to being top of the mind for parents," Stokes said.

Netsafe's April-June quarterly report revealed they have received 1,358 personal harm complaints so far this year (as of June) – which is already a 46.5 per cent increase on the same period last year.

Stokes said there was potential to lift the level of cover in the future, but until they've had a year or two experience they won't know whether $5000 is enough or not.

"We're providing probably a relatively modest level of cover potentially, but we'll just monitor that and see how that goes," he said.

"We're absolutely ready to adjust matters if that turns out what we need to do."

The annual benefit will be included in MAS Lifestyle and Residential contents policies.