A 13-year-old far north Queensland girl has been charged with stalking and using a carriage service to threaten violence after allegedly using the Snapchat mobile app to cyberbully another teenager.
The girl from the northern Cairns suburb of Kewarra Beach, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was accused of sending multiple video messages threatening physical harm against a 14-year-old girl between February 24 and March 8.
Using a carriage service to threaten violence is a Commonwealth offence that carries a maximum penalty of three years’ jail.
The ABC understands the teenager’s charges were dealt with outside court, but details of the outcome cannot be revealed.
Michelle Murray from advocacy group Bully Zero Australia said she believed the 13-year-old was the youngest person in Australia to be charged with a criminal offence related to cyberbullying.
“This type of behaviour is totally unacceptable,” she said.
“And while it’s disappointing that it’s a 13-year-old girl that’s been charged, the real tragedy is that we’re staring down the barrel of another potential suicide.”
Ms Murray said Snapchat was “dangerous” and had become the app of choice for cyberbullies.
“Unfortunately Snapchat is the one app that parents can’t actually put controls over,” she said.
“It’s a very, very dangerous app [and] it’s one of the things that kids are really using because they know that mum and dad can’t control what it is that they say.”
She said because Snapchat messages expired after being viewed, it was often difficult to gather evidence of cyberbullying.
“Unless you’re really quick to get a screen shot, you can pretty much get away with saying whatever you want,” she said.
‘Kids shouldn’t be scared or intimidated’
Senior Constable Jane Moran, from Cairns police, said reports of cyberbullying among young teenagers were increasing.
“This is beyond schoolyard activities, this is very serious stuff,” she said.
“You’ve just got to look at the incident with Dolly [Everett] a few months ago, we need to try and stop these things happening to kids.”
Northern Territory girl Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett, 14, took her own life after allegedly falling victim to bullying.
“Kids shouldn’t be scared or intimidated and they shouldn’t be frightened,” Senior Constable Moran said.
She said children as young as 10 could be charged with criminal offences for cyberbullying and that while stalking, threatening or harassing through social media or text message might seem harmless to the perpetrator, it could have dire consequences.
“It’s what’s frightening or intimidating to the victim,” she said.
“The person sending the messages might turn around and say ‘Well I don’t see that to be frightening or intimidating’ but if the victim’s receiving multiple messages that can be quite intimidating.”