Teens warned about posting dodgy images online

By Hana Garrett-Walker

Teens can take quite significant risks in posting content, despite knowing what can happen to images online, according to a cyber safety expert. File photo / Thinkstock
Teens can take quite significant risks in posting content, despite knowing what can happen to images online, according to a cyber safety expert. File photo / Thinkstock

A girl who posted a reportedly sexual image of herself on a social networking site was wrong to trust her online friends with it, a cyber safety expert says.

A number of students from Golden Bay High School were stood down for three days last month after the image was sent around the group, board of trustees chairman Bruce Packard said.

"They took it off one of the social networking sites, the girl had put it on her own page, and some others kids downloaded the image and forwarded it by text to three other students."

"When they got back to school the others who had seen it started gossiping about it and it made it awkward for the victim," Mr Packard said.

While the incident happened outside of school time, it got complicated when the students went back to school and expected the school to sort the issue out, Mr Packard said.

Mr Packard did not say what the image was of, but it was reportedly of a sexual nature.

Following the incident, which involved students under the age of 14, the school was now looking at its internet and cellphone policies.

"Technology is leaping ahead in leaps and bounds and we've got to sort out some way of dealing with it at school," Mr Packard said.

The school had also applied for funding to bring in a communications expert to talk to parents and students about the complexities of the internet and how they could safeguard themselves.

"We're a rural...remote school, way out in the back blocks of New Zealand and yet the complexities of the internet, and text bullying is on our doorstep, we're not isolated from it."

Golden Bay High School deputy principal Stuart Machin said the school had dealt with the incident and the school and the students involved had moved on.

"Kids make mistakes, we put things right."

NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker said teenagers were aware of what could happen to images on the internet but often they could take quite significant risks in posting content.

"I think that young people do put quite a lot of trust in their friends and their trust can sometimes be misplaced.

"The basic advice around social networking is use your privacy settings to secure your profile so only people you want can see the content you post, but that does rely on those people then not passing it on outside of that network."

The safest approach was to not post anything that you would be worried about if it was reposted, Mr Cocker said.

"If someone puts up a picture, you have no right to repost it and use it against them. That's harassment, that's bullying, that's inappropriate behaviour as well."

Research showed almost every New Zealand school had some form of cyber safety and anti-cyber bullying programme and they had shown themselves to be quite good at dealing with it, Mr Cocker said.

But it was a constant challenge for schools to stay on top of it, he said.

"We've established norms in society generally, and then people are retesting those online unfortunately.

"The internet is just another community space, and therefore the rules of society should apply to it."

- APNZ

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