- 10 августа 2013, 23:55
NSPCC study also finds that 10% of youngsters suffer daily abuse at the hands of internet trolls on sites such as Ask.fm
One in five children say they have been victims of cyberbullying on social media sites during the last year, as messages continue to be posted threatening fellow users with rape or violence.
Research by the NSPCC also found that 10% of 11- to 16-year-olds had been targeted daily by internet "trolls". Last night the charity called for a proper strategy to protect children from cyberbullying "before it gets out of hand".
Despite the widespread condemnation following the suicide last week of Hannah Smith, 14, of Lutterworth, Leicestershire, after she had been taunted and told to "drink bleach" on the question-and-answer forum ask.fm, the Observer has found that rape threats and messages urging users to kill themselves continue to be posted on the site.
Messages left in the past few days on the Latvia-based website – which David Cameron has called on advertisers to boycott – include one user warning another that "you're on my list of people to rape". Another asks a teenager: "Do you want me to rape you?", while one said: "I swear I will rape you, watch your back."
Examples of cyberbullying posted on the website within the past few days included one user urging another seven times to kill themselves. "Everyone wishes you were dead," the user wrote. Other visitors to the site last week urged others to cut their wrists.
Ask.fm isn't the only online arena for cyberbullying. Recent messages posted on qooh.me, a relatively new South African-based question forum aimed at teenagers, also appear to encourage fellow users to take their own lives. One said: "Just kill yourself, even your mum wants you dead." Another, posted nine days ago, urged a user to kill themselves, to which the reply came:"im [sic] almost thinking of it."
Misogyny and recent rape threats against women were also found on qooh.me, with one message warning: "You deserve everything that you get like being abused, getting raped." After another message urged the same victim to die, she answered: "I will not commit suicide maybe self harm but i'm not dieing [sic] because you told me to."
Another message on formspring.me, a San Francisco-based question-and-answer forum, is traced to an account which appears since to have been disabled but mentions skinning a girl and wearing "her like last year's Versace".
The NSPCC survey, the initial findings of a broader study into cyberbullying to be released this autumn, offers a rare insight into the extent of bullying, cyberstalking, unwanted sexual attention, violent or aggressive language, including threats or blackmail, racism, homophobia, sexism and encouragement to self-harm.
More than 1,000 children were interviewed for the survey, with "trolling" and "bullying" the issue that most 11- to 16-year-olds had experienced. The charity said that another problem was the large number of children using Facebook, YouTube and Twitter who were under the sites' minimum age of 13.
Claire Lilley, the NSPCC's safer technology expert, said: "We are particularly worried about the impact of these risks on younger children, and this is what our forthcoming report will focus on. We must ensure young people have the confidence to speak out against this abuse, so that they don't feel isolated and without anywhere to turn."
Last week Cameron called for a boycott of "vile" websites which allowed cyberbullying, urging their operators to show some responsibility.
Two men were charged last week with child pornography crimes in the alleged cyberbullying of a teenage Canadian girl who later took her own life. Rehtaeh Parsons, 17, of Nova Scotia, killed herself in April after being taunted over a photograph of her alleged rape by four boys, her mother has said.
Ask.fm has said that its moderators "ensure genuine concerns are acted upon immediately".
Both formspring.me and qooh.me advertise strict terms of service, including privacy settings and facilities allowing users who engage in malicious behaviour to be reported, together with a facility to terminate user accounts.