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New Issues On The Internet For Teens

www.urge.co.nz

Recently a young New Zealander demonstrated a caring attitude by helping other teens in her role as a teen mentor through a US based online advice agency. She also showed a cool head by alerting the police about a teenager in the USA who was threatening to kill schoolmates and parents.

At the moment, anyone can give advice over the Internet and there are no agreed New Zealand standards or guidelines for giving advice and information specifically for young people. A check of a US based online advice services recently showed a US teenager sent an email threatening suicide and did not receive a response for two and half hours. The two responses received were supportive but did not suggest the person get professional help.

Using chatlines for social support can be a great idea for some people. A significant number of New Zealand teens have turned to US based Internet websites for advice and support. This raises new safety issues e.g., time differences could mean that emails about serious issues are not responded to promptly, advice given may not accurately reflect our New Zealand culture or the range of local services available.

There are a range of New Zealand based websites that offer a New Zealand focused response to young New Zealanders' issues. The URGE / Whakamanawa website, www.urge.co.nz or www.whakamanawa.co.nz, is sponsored by a range of governmental and community organisations. "There is a risk of fragmentation of services which the Government has begun to address and show leadership in with the support of the Urge website", says Jason Roberts, Project Manager of Urge. Urge/Whakamanawa provides youth focused information and resources under the headings of "drugs, sex, stress and stuff". URGE / Whakamanawa is developing additional guidelines for people creating or operating youth health focused websites. Urge has decided not to use chat room facilities for safety reasons, e.g., potential time delays in responding to users, potential abuse of chatroom facilities and the cost of professional monitoring.

Jason Roberts says, "With the rapid increase of youth focused sites on the Internet there has become an urgent need to address safety issues for users. In addition we need to urgently address website quality and standards to enhance positive health outcomes for young people."

"The Internet is a great place to gain access to information and resources, but our goal is to facilitate users directly communicating with people in the community to help them through the tough times. So one of our goals is to get people on the net to get them off the net."

In addition to Internet resources, young New Zealanders and their families can access instant quality advice from trained youth by calling services such as Youthline's national Freephone crisis counselling and support service. Youthline's website www.youthline.co.nz lists the many personal help services located throughout New Zealand.

For further comments, please contact:

Jason Roberts, Project Manager, Urge/Whakamanawa.

Tel. 09 360 9531

Email: urge@xtra.co.nz

Mobile: 021 222 7624

Jason Roberts Project Manager www.Urge.co.nz NZAAHD Youthline House 13 Maidstone Street Ponsonby Auckland, NZ Ph 09 361 3659 Mob 021 2227624 email; urge@xtra.co.nz


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