Youthline Dunedin mentors Olivia Scobie (left) and Sarah
Zydervelt often take calls from teenagers affected by
cyber-bullying. Photo by Jonathan Chilton-Towle.
Online harassment is spilling over into the school yard,
a Dunedin educator says.
Dunedin Secondary Schools Partnership manager Gordon Wilson
said he received reports about cyber-bullying from local
schools on a weekly basis.
He believed cyber-bullying in Dunedin was as bad as elsewhere
in New Zealand.
''Is it happening in Dunedin, yes it is. It's a community
issue not a school issue,'' he said.
His experience suggested a large proportion of the problem
would be going unreported. As most schools monitored device
use, the bullying usually occurred outside school but
overflowed into the school yard.
Mr Wilson was not aware of any studies on how widespread
cyber-bullying was in Dunedin.
Nationwide, NetSafe, a non-governmental organisation that
promotes cyber-safety, receives about 75-80 queries a month
about bullying and harassment across a variety of platforms.
According to Netsafe, one in five high school pupils reported
being cyber-bullied in a 2007 survey.
Last year, the Government introduced the Harmful Digital
Communications Bill and, on Monday, the Council of Social
Services Dunedin and Dunedin Community Law will host a forum
for local stakeholders to discuss the Bill, which would
enforcement regime to deal with cyber-bullying. It would
become an offence to send messages and post material online
with intent to cause harm, punishable by up to three months'
imprisonment or a $2000 fine.
Youthline Otago manager Daniel Larsen said cyber-bullying was
a ''frequent trigger'' for people calling for help.
Unlike schoolyard bullying, online harassment was more
intrusive and violating, and was harder to escape.
Victims could take some measures, such as ''blocking'' the
bullies but it was difficult to remove offensive material.
Mr Larsen said the proposed law would send a clear message
that people were responsible for their actions whether they
were in the online world or in everyday life.
An open discussion on the Harmful Digital Communications Bill
will be held at Dunedin Community House from noon to 1.30pm