An app that allows children to bully each other is at the centre of a police investigation, after it was blamed for the death of a 15-year-old schoolboy.
The Sayat.me website was taken offline by its administrators following the suicide of George Hessay, a teenager from Goole, East Yorkshire, who had been allegedly abused over the app.
The app, which is a growing craze among teenagers, allow users to post anonymous “feedback” about their friends. It has been criticised for creating a vehicle for cyber-bullying among school children.
Sayat.me, which is based in Estonia, is designed for business users seeking “constructive, honest feedback” from colleagues and clients. It has 30 million users, many of whom are believed to be teenagers.
Last week Hessay, a keen footballer, took his own life after being allegedly bullied by his peers on the app.
Hanna Talving, the CEO of Sayat.me, said: “We have been made aware by police that they are investigating a bullying related suicide and we offer our sincere condolences to those affected by this loss.
“We deplore bullying of any kind and want it to have no place on our site. We will offer any assistance we can to the police. We have suspended use of the website to show how seriously we take these matters.”
Friends paid tribute to the teenager on Facebook, with Joely Baxter writing: “George Hessay was such a nice boy who cared about everyone and made sure everyone was ok.
“He really didn’t deserve what happened to him, nobody does and I think that whoever wrote things about him on that stupid Sayat.me thing should be ashamed and grow some balls and own up to it because whoever did it was sick in the head”.
Michaela Blackledge, headteacher at the Snaith School, said the community has been “deeply affected” by the Year 10 pupil’s death.
In a letter sent to parents she said: “I am sure that you will wish to join me and the staff in offering our condolences and sympathy to the family. We have spoken to all pupils and staff in school and have made arrangements for outside agencies to provide support.”
The Snaith Comets football team paid tribute to Hessay, who they said will be “greatly missed”.
“He was a Snaith footballer from an early age and went on to play for Comets when they were formed,” the team wrote on Facebook.
“He was a great team player, always willing to play and was happy playing anywhere on the pitch even in goal, eventually settling for the role of striker”.
A spokesman for Humberside Police said: “Police received notification of the sudden death of a 15-year-old boy from the Rawcliffe area of Goole on Wednesday, May 10.
“The boy’s death is not being treated as suspicious and a file will now be prepared for the coroner. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Children and teenagers must be reassured that it’s perfectly okay to refuse to take part in crazes that either make themselves or other people upset, hurt and scared.
“Parents should talk with their children and emphasise that they can still be accepted even if they don’t go along with the crowd.
“We are calling for the next Government to crack down on internet companies, with proper regulation and fines if they fail to protect young people from harmful content.”