The latest instance of suicide caused by cyberbullying involved 14-year-old Hannah Smith from Lutterworth in Leicestershire. Hannah received an onslaught of abusive messages such as “go die”, “drink bleach” and “do us all a favour n kill ur self” on social-networking site Ask.fm. Other messages called her ugly and overweight.
Since September 2012 there have been four deaths linked to this specific website, including the suicide of 15-year-old Ciara Pugsley. Ciara was a feisty young girl with a tight-knit family, who were sadly completely unaware of the abuse she was receiving until it was too late.
The Latvia-based website has 65 million users who can post questions and comments to each other anonymously – a feature that has lead to the site be described as a ‘stalker’s paradise’.
Founded in 2010 by Russian brothers Mark and Ilya Terebin, Ask.fm gains an estimated 300,000 new users a day, many of whom are teenagers. The site’s recently launched iPhone app has been described as one of the most popular in the world.
A grammar school in Britain was the first to ask for the site to be banned after an ‘exponential increase’ in self-harming among students. The latest death of Hannah Smith has prompted parents in the UK to join others from America, Australia and New Zealand in asking for the site to be banned.
Ask.fm has released a statement regarding the latest suicide, describing it as a ‘true tragedy’ but as Latvian laws govern the site, the outcome of the protest by parents is unclear. One of the founders, Mark Terebin, was quoted saying in 90% of cases he believes teenagers post the abuse themselves as a way of getting attention. He also said,
“We only have this situation in Ireland and the UK most of all, it seems the children are more cruel in these countries.”
The charity BeatBullying estimates that one in three teenagers have been victims of cyberbullying, with a worrying one in 13 experiencing ongoing, persistent abuse. Of those experiencing abuse, it is estimated that 5% resort to self-harm and 3% attempt suicide.
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