Sexting parents' nightmare

By Solbin Kang

How to keep children free from abuse in their social-media use is a major concern.
Even children as young as 8 swapped naked or part-naked photos, Netsafe's website stated. Photo / Janna Dixon
Even children as young as 8 swapped naked or part-naked photos, Netsafe's website stated. Photo / Janna Dixon

Sexting, cyber bullying, pornography and online predators are the major concerns for Kiwi parents when it comes to their children and the internet.

Sexting, a combination of sex and texting, is the most-viewed topic on Vodafone's digi-parenting.co.nz website.

The site, which helps parents educate their children on keeping safe on the internet, has attracted about 10,000 visitors every month since it was launched in July last year. Sean Lyons, Netsafe chief technology officer, said the statistics were significant, with sexting becoming more prevalent among Kiwi teens.

"You'd be hard pressed to find a teen that hasn't been asked to send a naked or semi-naked photo of themselves in New Zealand. For some teens, it's become quite a normal part of dating," he said.

Even children as young as 8 swapped naked or part-naked photos, Netsafe's website stated.

Vodafone digi-parenting manager Liz Wilson said it was clear what parents were worried about with their children.

"Parents have long been concerned about online predators or their children stumbling across pornography, but now they're increasingly concerned about sexting and cyber bullying."

Wellington mother Margaret Wakelin was aware of barely clothed teens posting photos of themselves on the internet. This was the reason why she regularly managed her 13-year-old daughter Kelis' social media page.

"I allowed her to get Facebook when she turned 13."

The 35-year-old mother-of-two had strict rules for her daughter's use of the internet.

"The conditions were that I know her password and I accept her friend requests on Facebook," she said.

Kelis also needed permission from her mum before posting a status.

Ms Wakelin's reasons for this control was to prevent cyber bullying and stop her daughter from seeing inappropriate content.

While it was unrealistic to continue to control Kelis' social media page, Ms Wakelin said she would try as long as possible. "She's getting to the stage where she's getting a bit angry now."

Today is Safer internet Day, a global initiative that promotes the safe and positive use of the internet and digital technologies.

Tips on keeping teens safe

• Take an interest in your children's involvement with technology.

• Make sure they know who to talk to if things get out of control.

• Understand how important technology and social media are in the development of young people's social activity.

• Have a frank talk about the dangers of sharing personal information and what can happen with sexual images or videos once created and shared. It might be embarrassing, but it's definitely less embarrassing than dealing with naked pictures all over the internet.

Sources: Vodafone and Netsafe

- NZ Herald

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