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Bullying on the NetBullying on the Net

   Anita Bora

Oli Watts probably never imagined that a project he started to counter bullies in school would make him, at the age of 16, one of Britain's youngest managing directors.

The site Pupiline.net (www.pupiline.net) has already won several awards, including the Cable and Wireless Awards earlier this year, Price Waterhouse Coopers Leaders of Tomorrow and the International Childnet Awards.

And how did it all start? Oli was travelling to school with his father one day, when he happened to mention the harassment he was facing from school bullies. His father encouraged him to do something about it, triggering Watts to start a site with resources on, and about, bullying.

"It was mostly name calling, humiliations in lessons, some physical abuse, but verbal bullying can hurt more than you might think," says Oli, describing his experience. He had no friends, and had to stand up to the other 150 kids in his year. His parents responded with a predictable: "Ignore them, it will go away."

He then decided to tackle the problem differently: "That's why I set up Pupiline.net, so you will have somewhere to go, do cool stuff, put your views and ideas forward, and do loads of other top things, read about and get advice on things that are affecting people of our age everywhere."

The site boasts 10-15,000 hits a month and won the backing of Prime Minister Tony Blair, The National Association of Headteachers and The Secondary Heads Association.

A quick look leaves one impressed with the boy and his team's efforts. Apart from resources on bullying, the 'Issues and Advice' section contains information useful for any school-going kid - preparing for exams, what to do after you leave school and health issues like teenage cancer and epilepsy.

The 'Features' section deals with teenage problems like dating, dumping, driving, finances, food, friendship, sex, part-time jobs and even pregnancy. 'Cool Stuff' has loads of links on films, music, freebies, games and all the things that teenagers love. All content comes from kids below 21, and this link shows you how to get involved.

Oli has changed schools and claims to be happier now. Launched as an electronic magazine run by teenagers for teenagers (between 11 and 19), the site is today a fully functional company. A major investment also saw a redesign, and it now boasts over 250 pages and 30 people who work with Oli as the Managing Director.

A quick glance through the 'Press Release' section gives visitors an overview of how much Oli's achievement has been appreciated and rewarded. What does the future hold for this venture? A number of schools in the UK are already working with Pupiline.net on various projects. It has also managed sponsorship and advertising deals. For example, Burger King sponsored the part-time jobs section, where teens can apply for a job online.

Oli has definitely come a long way from being bullied, humiliated and pressurised in school. At the age of 16, this self confessed lover of Indian food, who describes himself as 'caring, confident, intelligent, fun and kind' has the last laugh - all by taking a simple idea and turning it into one of Britain's leading teenage sites.

--When you are not alone
--Help and advice for parents and kids
--Survival Guide
--Bullying and what to do about it
--Fact Sheet on Bullying

You can also try these links from RediffSearch for more on Bullying.

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