Teen kills herself after cyber-bullying on Ask.fm, father says [The Irish Times, 06/08/2013 ]

The home page of the website ask.fm. Photograph: Matt Stevens/PA Wire
The home page of the website ask.fm. Photograph: Matt Stevens/PA Wire
The father of a British teenage girl who took her own life on Friday, has claimed that she was being abused by brutal messages on social networking site Ask.fm.Hannah Smith (14 )died on Friday in Lutterworth, Leicestershire. Her father alleges that she was being “cyber-bullied” on the question-and-answer website Ask.fm, which allows users to send messages to one another without their identity being disclosed.

Dave Smith called for authorities to close down the site, and those like it, after stumbling across cruel taunts from so-called “trolls” that he said drove his teenage daughter to take her own life.

Writing on Facebook, he said: “On Friday morning my daughter was found hanged… (I saw) her Ask.fm account and someone had been telling her to die.

“I have just seen the abuse my daughter got from people on Ask.fm and the fact that these people can be anonymous is wrong,” he said. He urged parents not to let their children go onto the website.

Although people wanting to use ask.fm have to register an email address, name and date of birth, those posting messages can choose to do so anonymously.

Hannah’s death echoes that of the deaths last year of two Irish teenagers, Ciara Pugsley (15) in Leitrim and Erin Gallagher (13) in Donegal. Both girls took their own lives after being subjected to alleged bullying campaigns on the ask.fm site.

In the US last year, 16-year-old Jessica Laney, was found dead at her home in Florida in December after users on social networking sites tormented her with insults and asked: “Can you kill yourself already?”

Emma-Jane Cross, from campaign group BeatBullying, said: “High-profile cases of trolling over the last week have deservedly received lots of attention in the media. However, we also cannot forget that thousands of young people, as in the tragic case of Hannah Smith, face a daily barrage of online abuse, death threats and harassment.

“Although they may not be in the public eye or have celebrity status, it’s shocking that one in three young people are cyberbullied, and one in 13 face persistent abuse online.

“We cannot stand by while innocent children lose their lives. Adults need to set an example for young people and we all have a responsibility to tackle this type of behaviour and keep our children safe.

“We want internet service providers, schools, Government and the police to come together and produce a UK anti-bullying strategy, to prove that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.

“We’d also urge any young person worried about cyber-bullying to visit BeatBullying.org for advice and support.”

Ask.fm is a Latvian based site which continues to grow and launched a new iPhone app in June.

After the death of Erin Gallagher in Donegal last year the founder of Ask.fm described her suicide as “a true tragedy”.

However, he said: “Ask.fm is just a tool which helps people to communicate with each other, same as any other social network, same as phone, same as piece of paper and pen.

“Don’t blame a tool, but try to make changes . . . start with yourself . . . be more polite, more kind, more tolerant of others . . . cultivate these values in families, in schools,” Mr Terebin posted on the website.

Support:

Childline: Phone: 1800 666 666, text talk to 50101, childline.ie

The Samaritans: Phone: 1850 60 90 90 TXT: 087 2 60 90 90 Email: jo@samaritans.org

Watch Your Space campaign: www.watchyourspace.ie and Facebook.com/watchyourspace.