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Teen suicide adds to alarm over cyberbullying

14-year-old took life after being insulted on Ask.fm

12 February, 17:08
Teen suicide adds to alarm over cyberbullying (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Parma, February 12 - The case of a 14-year-old girl who killed herself at the weekend after being insulted and encouraged to commit suicide on the Internet has added to widespread alarm about cyberbullying in Italy.

The girl threw herself off an abandoned hotel near Padua Sunday after talking about her self-harming on a social media site, police said. The girl in the town of Cittadella had received insulting messages, a link to the film Suicide Room and an explicit invitation to suicide on Ask.fm, a site where subscribers can post anonymously. "You are a fat, big-bummed retard," read one of the messages directed at the girl, whose first name was Nadia, on Ask.fm.

"You pretend to be depressed to attract attention. You are pathetic".

"I hope you die, slut," read another post. Ask.fm hit the headlines last summer after the suicide of a 14-year-old British girl who had received messages urging her to hurt herself.

Sadly Nadia's case is not unique.

Indeed, a survey by the Ipsos market-research agency for Save the Children Italia showed that 69% of Italians aged 11 to 16 considered cyberbullying "the main threat to their lives".

They put it ahead of the threat of drug addiction and physically attack, the study said. Over two-thirds (69%) said cyberbullying caused isolation and the loss of desire to go out with friends, with 62% saying it led to absenteeism from school in the study released Tuesday for Safer Internet Day. The Italian government is taking the threat seriously.

The Italian police have an online service for young people to report incidents of cyberbullying.

And thanks to an agreement between the education ministry and the police, workshops on the dangers of cyberbullying and responsible Internet use will be held at schools in 100 Italian cities and reach out to around 60,000 students. The workshops will be accompanied by adverts and initiatives on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

"The agreement between the education ministry and the police is a first step towards clamping down on cyberbullying," said Luca Borgomeo, the president of Catholic viewers association Aiart, which is worried about the effect media messages have on bullying. "But there is a risk that spot initiatives are limited in terms of the long-term effects of their results and their effectiveness.

"Media education should be on the school curriculum, as today it is no less important than Italian or mathematics". Furthermore, the fact that cyberbullying is an increasing threat, does not mean the traditional form is diminishing.

An example is the case of a girl who was kicked and punched by five girls of the same age and who suffered a broken nose and bruises as a result. This case is being investigated by a juvenile court, reported La Gazzetta di Parma Wednesday.

All of the suspects are under 18, and the incident allegedly occurred after the girl drew the attention of a boy who was 'dating' another young girl. The latter called on her friends to help her beat up her 'rival in love'.

There was no video footage documenting the attack - unlike a similar, recent incident in the northern Italian town of Bollate - but evidence of it was found on social networks, including Facebook. Research done by the Italian non-profit organization Label last year found that bullying of all types among youths was rising in Italy.

It reported that around 60% of children who are bullies in their youth are likely to become criminals, use drugs, abuse alcohol and spend time in jail as they get older, according to the study's findings.

Based on the interviews conducted as part of the research, boys were the victims of bullying less often than girls (19% compared to 23%).

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