Max Key opens up about cyber bullying

Max Key (Facebook)
Max Key (Facebook)

The Prime Minister's son has opened up about his experiences with cyber bullying and growing up in the spotlight, saying he used to receive death threats "twice a week".

Max Key was part of a panel on 'the price of celebrity' at this year's Netsafe conference at Auckland's Pullman Hotel on Friday, alongside Mike Puru, Richie Hardcore, Kris Fox and the Paul Henry programme's Verity Johnson.

The 21-year-old's frequent social media posts, fledgling music career and lavish lifestyle have been fodder for the media and drawn inevitable criticism.

Key hasn't been shy about building on his status, courting attention in a number of ways including his radio show on George FM, a photo feature in Remix Magazine and the extravagant music video for his second single 'Paradise'

He hit the headlines again recently with a Snapchat video in which he yelled "real men ride women" to a group of cyclists as he drove along Auckland's Parnell Rise. 

Key has been in the public eye since his early teens, when his dad first became Prime Minister.

"When I was quite a young kid, dad was under a lot of scrutiny and I found that quite hard. It was hard for me to see him getting negatively criticised," he said.

"I was getting death threats twice a week."

Key said he wanted to step out from his dad's shadow as he grew into his own person, but there have been a few mishaps along the way.

"I make mistakes and do stuff without thinking and you have to see the consequences of that," he told the audience.

"Something that could take two seconds of your day, that you don't think about, could affect you for the rest of your life."

Key said his one regret is publicising his last relationship, saying the added pressure wasn't fair on the other person.  

He also said having the privilege to meet world leaders including Queen Elizabeth II and US President Barack Obama showed him that "every single person is just a human".

And that's how he wants people to see the Prime Minister in his social media posts - he wants to be able to treat his dad in the same way his friends treat their fathers.

"But at the same time you do have to filter a bit," he said.

Key told the conference that once he realised he'd be criticised regardless of what he did and posted online, he just decided to be his own person.

His 90,000-strong social media following has given him a platform to share his music, and it's even secured him gigs he might not have been offered otherwise.


Newshub's own Samantha Hayes was the conference's MC, and has also been targeted online.

Hayes' Instagram account was hacked in September, and ordeal she described as "virtual violation".

She says she agreed to take part in the conference as a way to help tackle online bullying.

"Young people, but not just young people, adults too, are being confronted more and more by negativity online through Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms and it's important to have a conversation about how to challenge and best cope with it."

NetSafe's new cyber bullying and online harassment service will officially launch later this month.