Northland schools are dealing with disturbing cases of cyber bullying, including a pupil who had his Facebook account hacked by an imposter who made lewd requests to the student's friends.
Kamo High School principal Joanne Hutt has encouraged parents to go to one of a series of talks given by cyber safety expert John Parsons, whose next free seminar is tonight in Whangarei.
A Kamo High pupil whose Facebook account had been hacked had been left feeling "hated and unwelcome" at school.
"Unfortunately educators have to teach, monitor and remind our young people about the social responsibility around safe practices using the internet," Ms Hutt said.
Kamo High School's stance against cyber bullies includes researching the issue.
The school's Year 13 sociology class has conducted research which suggested up to 75 per cent of students had received "bullying, nasty messages and threats" on their phones or social media. Ms Hutt stressed Kamo High had no more cyber bullying than any other school.
Mr Parsons said technology meant young people were relentlessly exposed to harmful content, from both bullying peers and outside sources. He said he regularly worked with children as young as 8 who were targeted by paedophiles online.
"When they are very young we simply need to know who they are communicating with ... Get the technology out of the bedrooms," he said.
Come the mid-teens, Mr Parsons said parents could loosen the reins and allow their children more privacy. But there still needed to be consistent messaging around empathy and respect for themselves and others.
"I work with young people who can't even land part-time jobs because of the information that's out there on the internet about them - sometimes from friends. A child's CV today is their digital footprint," he said.
Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president Pat Newman said he also occasionally dealt with incidents of cyber bullying among his primary school pupils.
"Years ago you could only [bully] verbally. Now with the touch of a button you can reach [victims]. And with cameras there's a whole lot of stuff happening around sexuality."
Mr Newman said he did not see the need for primary-aged pupils to have cellphones and computers should be in family areas.
"The one thing I'd stress is that parents pay the bills, that gives them the right to see what's on the cellphone. If the child isn't willing to show you what's on it - that's the warning bell."
Mr Parson's visit had seen him speak at a number of high schools, as well as evening talks to parents. His visit was personally sponsored by Tikipunga GP Mikayla McKeague, who had seen Mr Parsons speak at a conference and thought he had an important message.
"I'm a parent who wasn't raised in the digital era, so I knew I didn't have the information I needed to keep my children safe. I needed to empower myself," Dr McKeague said. "We're all aware of the children who are affected by violence ... and the digital era provides another platform through which that violence can be perpetrated. It reaches into the safety of bedrooms and across all age groups."
Mr Parsons will give a free talk on cyber safety tonight, 7pm at Central Baptist Church, Bank St, Whangarei.
* This issue is happening throughout Northland. Tell us about the cyber bullying going on - how harmful is it and what can we do as a region to deal with it? Emaileditor@northernadvocate.co.nz
Keeping young people safe online:
* Prior to their mid-teens, children do not need private cellphones.
* Remind young people of the possible repercussions of what they post about themselves: A digital footprint is the modern CV.
* Keep smartphones, laptops, tablets out of bedrooms and in family spaces.
* The minimum age for Facebook is 13 - children should not have accounts any earlier.
* The recently-passed Harmful Digital Communications Bill can be used to prosecute cyber bullies.