Prime minister Theresa May has been called upon to do more to tackle cyberbullying following the suicide of a Scottish teenager who killed himself after receiving “cruel online threats and bullying”.
Paul Masterton, Conservative MP for East Renfrewshire, raised the issue of the tragic death in October of Ben McKenzie, a 13-year-old pupil at Eastwood High School, during Prime Minister’s Questions earlier today, as he called on the government to do more to tackle cyberbullying.
He said measures were not only necessary to support the victims of online abuse, but also to help bullies to understand the consequences of their actions.
No family, he added, should have to face the prospect of spending Christmas without their child due to a suicide.
Mr Masterton said: “A few weeks ago, Ben McKenzie from Neilston, a pupil at Eastwood High School, took his own life, having been the victim of cruel online threats and bullying on social media and his mobile phone; he was just 13 years old.
“Nearly £10,000 has been raised in his memory for Beautiful Inside and Out, a Scottish charity that supports the families of victims of child suicide. Can the prime minister set out what this government is going to do to tackle cyberbullying, not just to support and empower victims, but to deter and prevent children who might be engaging in these acts without realising the consequences they can have? Because no family should be enduring a Christmas without their child due to suicide.”
Outside the circus, real life, and real issues, continue.— Paul Masterton MP (@PM4EastRen) December 12, 2018
Thank you @theresa_may for a sincere and serious response to my Question today on the tragic death of my constituent Ben McKenzie.
Ben took his own life after being the victim of cyber bullying - he was just 13. pic.twitter.com/ybasyXzmF3
In response, Ms May said he had raised an “extremely serious issue” that needed to be tackled by working with internet companies, as well as supporting schools to recognise the problem and deal with it.
She continued: “Our consultation last year on internet safety showed that despite a range of voluntary initiatives and good work by a range of charities – I commend the work of the Scottish charity Beautiful Inside and Out and the amount of money that has been raised – this remains a serious issue for millions of people. I know the Scottish government have been addressing this with their Respect for All approach, and we have funded the UK Safer Internet Centre, which is providing guidance for schools. But we should all be taking this issue seriously and the government will continue to work on this."
Tragic case raised by @PM4EastRen at #PMQs - so important that we deal with #cyberbullying as a priority. The Inquiry I'm holding alongside the @R_S_P_H into #socialmedia and its impact on young people's mental health is seeking to find real solutions to this @socialmediaAPPG— Chris Elmore MP (@CPJElmore) December 12, 2018