Students take a stand against cyber bullying

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Waitaki Girls’ High School is taking a proactive approach to an online application, which has been linked to cyber-bullying.

School leaders Maddie Blackler (head girl), Olivia Hay (deputy head girl), Rebekah Cochrane (head boarder) and Sophie Dalgleish-Andrews (board of trustees student representative) are raising awareness of the issue at their school, after witnessing first-hand, the nasty comments that can come out of the app.

Ask.fm is a social networking application, which allows people to anonymously ask questions on people’s profiles or comment.

”We noticed a lot of girls within our school were being bullied,” said Olivia.

Principal Tracy Walker said the school were very aware of the issue and impact it is having on people not only nationally, but internationally.

“We are trying to be proactive,” she said.

“Some material on it is explicit and inappropriate.”

Ms Walker said the school is encouraging the students to avoid using the social network site.

Waitaki Boys’ High School Paul Jackson said they had no issues surrounding Ask.fm within the school.

Waitaki’s Helen Algar, whose son took his own life in 2003 as a result of cyber bullying, said if you can’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it hiding behind a keyboard.

”It’s very easy to say it behind a key board,” she said.

Mrs Algar said the fact people can comment and ask questions anonymously is one of the most damaging factors of Ask.fm.

“Anybody can say anything,’’ she said.

“At the end of the day, it could be your best friend that’s doing it.’’

She said cyber-bullying was the worst kind.

“I just don’t get it,’’ she said.

“People should be out doing more worthwhile things.’’

She said people don’t understand that there can be unintended consequences, including suicide.

A number of youth suicide cases in Britain have been linked to Ask.fm recently.

Oamaru community constable Bruce Dow asked parents to keep a watchful eye over their children’s shoulder.

“It’s damaging,” he said.

Mr Dow advised people who were using the site, to remove themselves from it.

Waitaki Girls’ High School and Oamaru Intermediate School are hosting Netsafe’s Lee Chisholm for a parent information evening.

The evening will cover what current cyber safety issues there are and how you should deal with cyberbullying.

It is being held Tuesday August 20, 7.30pm at the MK Dunning Hall, Waitaki Girls’ High School.

All parents are welcome to attend.

By Jessie Waite