The government has been accused of not doing enough to tackle online abuse directed at children, following the death of a 14-year-old Hannah Smith, who became the latest child to kill herself after being bullied online. This is from the Guardian…
A cross-party commission into cyberbullying must be urgently established in order to understand the extent of the challenge facing children and their parents, said Labour MP Barry Sheerman, co-chair of the The Skills Commission, an independent body which meets in parliament to discuss education.
“The government is simply not showing enough leadership in this area, the fact is the response has been inadequate,” he said. “Childhood is being squeezed all the time, particularly by this horrific manipulative bullying children are now exposed to online.
“We need the government and leadership across the political parties to come together and tackle this. There is no simple solution, we need to find a balance between legislation and conversation with the people who run these sites, but if the law needs changing then lets do it.”
Sheerman, who in June sponsored an early day motion to create an anti-cyberbullying day, called for more comprehensive research into cyberbulling after it emerged this week that 14-year-old Hannah Smith from Leicestershire killed herself after being targeted on the website ask.fm.
…Diane Abbott MP said the government and the secretary of state for education had to rethink policy and give greater importance to teaching children about relationships. “I think the main failing of the government in this issue is Michael Gove’s refusal to make sex and relationship education compulsory in all schools. “This would mean that children would not only learn about how to cope with sexting and pornography but they would also discuss how to relate to each other on the internet.”
She added that online sites such as Ask.fm and Twitter – which has come under scrutiny after a series of women disclosed that they had received death and rape threats on the site – had to take more responsibility for the behaviour of its users. “For too long we have had this west coast attitude of ‘you can say what you like no matter what’, well that might work in a different social and political climate but it does not work here,” she said. “If these sites are seeing a pattern of abusive behaviour then [the company] must step in.”
Parenting websites also joined calls for greater scrutiny of social networks like ask.fm and said cyberbullying was a key issue for parents. “It is not enough to say parents and teachers need to monitor their children’s internet use, they do but there will always be a disconnect and parents will always be one step behind,” said Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard. “We need action from pressure groups, experts and the owners of these websites themselves but ultimately there needs to be action taken by the government.”
…Ask.fm – which allows users to send messages anonymously – described Hannah’s death as a “true tragedy” and promised to work with police investigating the incident. In a statement a spokeswoman said: “Ask.fm actively encourages our users and their parents to report any incidences of bullying, either by using the in-site reporting button, or via our contact page. All reports are read by our team of moderators to ensure that genuine concerns are heard and acted upon immediately and we always remove content reported to us that violates our terms of service.”
If the answer is better education, how do you discourage young people from undertaking anti-social and bullying behaviour online? Or is the education more about helping the victims know how to respond? Please let us know what you would recommend to deal with this in the comments, on twitter or using this form