Caught on the net


CALLOUS and cowardly cyber-bullies are hiding behind bitchy, nasty and sex-riddled rumour sites targeting local kids.
In just 20 hours from its creation, more than 400 people ’liked’ the Kooweerup Gossip page before it was taken down.
But it wasn’t down for long, with the unrepentant creator reposting the page under a new name within hours of the original disappearing.
The page asks for people to send in their gossip and promises to report it in a similar fashion to the popular television show Gossip Girl – but the television version is much less graphic.
The Gazette was the first to notify both local police and Kooweerup Secondary College, which acted quickly to shut down the original page that named and shamed students for the world to see.
Posts ranged from rumours on who was kissing whom, to comments on the menstruation of teenage girls as well as many posts regarding the sexual activities of fellow local children and youths that were too explicit to print.
Kooweerup Secondary College principal Kim Bridgford said as soon as the school was alerted, a procedure to find the source was put in place.
“We believe it was started by one of our Year 7 or 8 students,” Mr Bridgford said.
“She’s since realised we’ve started interviewing kids that were named, panicked and deleted the page.”
But Mr Bridgford didn’t mince his words, saying it was parents’ responsibility to ensure their children weren’t using social media sites for bullying.
“We constantly educate and remind students about the problems associated with online bullying – that it is a serious problem confronting all schools and we really need parents to be aware of what their children do,” he said.
“We would urge all parents to closely monitor their children’s use of Facebook.”
Cardinia Inspector Chris Major said the makers of such rumour sites were committing an offence in the eyes of the law.
“These people are committing offences in relation to online bullying,” Insp Major said.
“Anyone who sees these sites should report it to police – we can pull it down and sift through the information to find the person responsible.”
Insp Major said cyber bullying was a major concern and police didn’t take the issue lightly.
He said police would investigate the source of the pages in question.
Windermere’s Julie Speirs said it was important that parents had a good grasp of their children’s use of social media sites.
“My understanding is that if kids are being cyber bullied that they are also getting bullied in real life,” she said.
“So it’s important parents can talk to their kids about these things and see the signs.”
She said one idea was for parents to “friend” their children on Facebook with the agreement they don’t embarrass them. Another was for parents to have access to their child’s passwords.
“It’s also important that these kids aren’t alone in their rooms when using these sites, it’s like sending your kids walking down a dark street in the middle of the night – it’s just not safe,” she said.
“And it can lead to depression or suicidal thoughts.”