DCSIMG

Suicide girl’s father appeals to Cameron on sites

Hannah Smith was a target of cyberbullies. Picture: Contributed

Hannah Smith was a target of cyberbullies. Picture: Contributed

  • by LUCY BOGUSTAWSKI
 

THE father of a teenage girl who killed herself after being bullied online has called on the Prime Minister clamp down on social networking websites where users can be anonymous.

Dave Smith said 14-year-old Hannah died last Friday after being “cyberbullied” on the question-and-answer website ask.fm, which allows users to send messages to one another without their identity being disclosed.

He is urging the authorities to close down the site, and those like it, after stumbling across cruel taunts from “trolls”, which he said drove his daughter to take her own life.

He has appealed to David Cameron to put regulations in place that will protect vulnerable people from online bullies.

Speaking from his home in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, Mr Smith, 45, said: “Websites like this are bullying websites because people can be anonymous. If I had not spoken up about this, another teenager could be dead next week.

“I would appeal to David Cameron, as a Prime Minister and a father, to look at this to make sure these sites are pro­perly regulated so bullying of vulnerable people like my daughter cannot take place.

“I don’t want other parents to go through what I am going through.”

The schoolgirl was found hanging in her bedroom by her sister Jo, 16. Mr Smith later found a note written by Hannah which read: “I wonder if it’s ever going to get better.”

Mr Smith, a lorry driver, said: “We sleep downstairs now, we don’t have a bedtime. Since this happened, I have only had three hours’ sleep a night.

“I want this to be sorted out as soon as possible, so no other vulnerable children die.”

Floral tributes have been left propped up outside the the teenager’s home.

Ask.fm said it would co-operate with any investigations into her death.

A spokeswoman added the website had a “report” button for flagging up inappropriate content, which members were encouraged to use.

She said: “Hannah Smith’s death is a true tragedy; we would like to convey our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

“We would be happy to co-operate with the police investigation into the true circumstances of her suicide.

“Ask.fm actively encourages our users and their parents to report any incidences of bullying, either by using the in-site reporting button, or via our contact page,” she added.

Nora Parker, headteacher at Lutterworth High School, where Hannah was in year nine, said: “Hannah, who just completed her final year at the school and was looking to transfer to Lutter­worth College in August, was a bright, bubbly, popular and thoughtful girl who was liked and respected by all those she came into contact with.”

A Facebook tribute page has been set up for Hannah, called RIP Hannah Smith, and already has more than 19,000 “likes”.

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

This latest tragedy echoes that of 16-year-old Jessica Laney, who 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?”

Hannah’s death comes amid a growing row about the policing of social media after rape and even bomb threats were made to high-profile female media personalities on Twitter.

Classicist and TV presenter Mary Beard said on Monday she had received numerous “threats of violence and death” on the
social media site in recent days.

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “This is a tragic case, where Hannah felt like she had no other option but to end her life. The cruel nature of cyberbullying allows perpetrators to remain anonymous and hide behind their screens.

“This is something that must be tackled before it gets out of hand,” he added. “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.”

 
 
 

Back to the top of the page