COMMENT:

We walk through life, heads down, mobile phones in hand like a compass guiding us along the way.

And every now and then, despite the continually evolving technology, we get lost. A 12-year-old Hawke's Bay girl is one of many children who targeted by a predator based in Ireland, New Zealand police say.

A 21-year-old from Newry in Northern Ireland is accused of using fake identities on social media sites to get children to send him naked pictures of themselves.

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These days, it is not uncommon for a 12-year-old to have a cellphone. A 10-year-old even. But phones are no longer just phones.

A smartphone that helps keep your child safe by providing a safe link with mum and dad can also be a portal to manipulative strangers.

As a parent, I was mortified to discover that the phone we had provided our child with was full of messages from a teenage boy requesting photos that, quite simply, you would not ask for in person.

After I was talked out of going to see him, a text to him and a phone call to his mother (from me) stopped the incoming texts.

As parents, my wife and I have always urged our kids to not use language online or via text/messenger that they would not use in person.

But it's become a simplistic notion that has been overtaken by phones ceasing to be phones. The volume of information kids can now digest through their phone, without parents knowing, is bordering on infinite.

We no longer have to worry about the strange person down the street ... they can be on the other side of world.

The good thing is that parents can also seek out information.

Hunt down the Navigating the Journey resource (courtesy of Family Planning) adopted by a Hawke's Bay school cluster and go to Netsafe online for advice.

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Netsafe's advice covers a wide range of situations and its common sense advice - for example, don't always take a phone away from a child if they are being bullied, it can alienate them from their support base, their peers.

With a little research, the compass can be recalibrated to get things back on track.