Online safety group Netsafe is holding an information session in Kerikeri next week
to help parents protect their kids from cyberbullying.
While Netsafe says the proportion of young people subjected to cyberbullying has been fairly steady over the past decade, new technology has created more potent tools for bullies.
The free session coincides with Bullying Free New Zealand Week from May 17-21, which culminates in Pink Shirt Day on Friday.
In March a number of Kerikeri High School students were subjected to what was believed to be a particularly vicious cyberbullying campaign.
The perpetrators allegedly set up a series of up to seven anonymous Instagram accounts and used them to share what the school described as ''harmful and hurtful'' material.
The accounts were widely shared and commented on by other students.
Similar issues, often stemming from Instagram accounts, were part of the reason behind a cellphone ban that came into force at Bay of Islands College in Kawakawa two weeks ago.
Northland College in Kaikohe followed suit this week.
On March 11 Kerikeri High emailed all parents to outline what had happened. The school also asked them to take a screenshot of any inappropriate social media messages sent to their children, then block the sender to reduce the child's exposure to harmful content.
The email said some students had been spoken to already but many, including those who had set up the accounts, had used fake identities so it was difficult to identify who they were.
Kerikeri High School has been contacted for comment.
Under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015, cyberbullying can lead to hefty fines or, in extreme cases, jail time.
Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said the incidence of cyberbullying nationwide had changed little in recent years, with the proportion of young people affected remaining at a fairly steady 20 per cent.
What had changed, however, was the nature of the bullying.
''Fifteen years ago it was people sending each other nasty text messages. Now changing technology has made different forms of bullying possible, so it feels like something that's getting bigger.''
The Kerikeri High incident, with multiple anonymous social media accounts set up for the sole purpose of bullying, was ''not as unusual as I'd like it to be'', Cocker said.
''Though it's pretty extreme for the person at the receiving end of it, and for people to invest that much time and energy in bullying or harassing someone. Technology has made those sorts of bullying opportunities so accessible.''
Cocker said Tuesday's session from 6-7pm at Kerikeri Primary School would tackle online bullying, unwanted contact, privacy, inappropriate content, the law governing online behaviour, and the services available for people who find themselves on the receiving end of online attacks.
The focus, however, would be on giving parents tools to keep their kids safe online.
It was open to all parents and whānau and would be led by Andrew Cowie, a former teacher now employed by Netsafe. Separate sessions will be held for teachers and school leaders.
So far this year NetSafe has received 432 personal harm reports from or about young people aged 10-17. Most victims were aged 13-15.
Northland accounted for 6 per cent of reports, roughly in line with the region's population.
■ Go to netsafe.org.nz or call 0508 638 723 for more information about staying safe online or support after an online incident. Registration for the May 18 event from 6pm at Kerikeri Primary School (netsafe.org.nz/the-kit/netsafe-live-northland) is recommended but not essential. More sessions will follow around Northland including in Whangārei.