Cyber bully steals child's identity

An Ashburton principal has told a parent to go to police after their child's identity was used on social media to harass a teenager.

The incident has put cyber safety under the spotlight, sparking calls for parents to keep a watchful eye over their child's activities on social media and the need to report sinister behaviour.

Ashburton Intermediate principal Gavin Cooper said an unknown person created a Facebook account this week in the name of a child at his school and "hassled'' a pupil from Ashburton College.

"The parent of the child whose name was being used came to us saying their child was said to be doing this stuff but their child didn't even have a Facebook page.''

Mr Cooper said he investigated the incident but it was unclear who created the Facebook page and why they did it.

"We've done as much as we can and informed everyone at school that this Facebook page is false. We have asked the parent to go to police and contact Facebook to get it removed,'' he said.

He said Facebook was blocked at the school, so the culprit was likely to have used a cell phone or done it out of school hours if they were an Ashburton Intermediate pupil.

"You shouldn't let a child have free rein - you as a parent should be responsible. Ask them to show what they are doing on social media and if they don't show you then something's up, what is there to hide?

"The identity of the person you're talking to, unless you know them personally and ask them a personal question they can answer, you can't always accept they are who you think you're speaking to.''

Think First project coordinator John Hobbs, who is leading a campaign to reduce bullying in Mid Canterbury, said the behaviour was "a new low''.

"Unfortunately there isn't really a way to avoid things like this happening purely because of the nature of technology and social networking,'' Mr Hobbs said.

"Thankfully, there are legal consequences now for this sort of behaviour if charges are laid and I would fully encourage anyone who is a victim of cyber bullying to do so.''

How to be cyber safe

-Regularly check your privacy settings
-Block offensive posts and profiles
-Report cyber bullying, don't ignore it
-Don't add or accept friend requests from people you don't know
-Be careful with apps and read the usage agreement
-Be age appropriate with setting cyberspace rules for kids and teens

Source: Think First, Safer Ashburton


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