A Whangarei mum is urging parents to keep an eye on their children's online use after her teenage daughter was pressured to send provocative images to teenage boys.
The incident is one of a number of recent cases of cyber bullying that has Northland police urging parents to take more responsibility for their children's use of social media and technology.
The mum, who wants to remain anonymous to protect her daughter, said she was "devastated" when she discovered her then 14-year-old daughter had sent sexually explicit images of herself after some encouragement from boys she knew. "They were asking her to exchange naked photos, to live chat herself having a shower. My big push is to make parents aware because as much as they don't think it's happening to their kid, I bet it is."
The woman said her daughter had used apps like Snapchat, Tinder and Kik - a messaging application - during her interactions with the boys. She said the conversations had been going on for six months. She did not want to say how she found out about it, but said she was worried about what may have happened if she had not seen the messages. "If I hadn't found out, it would've got deeper and she'd have no where to turn. I mean those images could have been used to blackmail her and that could lead to suicide."
Whangarei police campus cop senior constable Hank van Engelen said parents needed to give their children guidance around the use of social media.
"They need to have access to their children's accounts, so they can see who they are talking to and what is being said," Mr Van Engelen said.
He said keeping an eye on children's online use was no different than parents knowing who their children's friends are, where they are going and who they are going with.
"If you suspect your child is being cyber bullied get them to block the sender and seek advice on how to support your child. Don't become part of the problem by jumping online to have a go at the person carrying out the bullying."
The mum said she knew of other teenage girls who had sent explicit images. "There's so many girls who buy into it and seek attention so they get sucked in. I didn't think my child could do this, I swore she knew better. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth - she was well behaved, well mannered."
Once she found out about the photos she talked about it with her daughter and confiscated her phone and cut off social media access. She also went to schools who told her they would be in contact with police.
Netsafe executive director Martin Cocker said it was not uncommon for teenage girls to receive requests for explicit images. He said once children hit their teenage years it was important for parents to have a conversation about challenges they may face.
For more on cyber bullying visit www.netsafe.org.nz or call 0508 NETSAFE.
How to deal with cyber bullying
* It is important to be supportive and not over react. Young people can and do use bad language and posts can be quite derogatory.
* Parents or caregivers sometimes get involved in the harmful conversations. While the motivation for this is totally understandable, it is unlikely to be helpful. Avoid getting involved directly if you can.
* Be calm and supportive. It is great that your child or young person could tell you, it means they trust you and together you will work out what needs to be done.
* Some young people will prefer to ignore the comments and fear escalation by reporting or that contacting the person will make the situation worse. Listen to your child and their concerns.
* Discuss the possible avenues to be taken. You may want to call NetSafe 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723) to gather more information.
* It can be useful to get the abusive content removed quickly (after taking screen-shots in case evidence is needed later) so report abuse through the reporting system of the site that hosts the content. Most sites will have a "Report Abuse" button or "Safety" link.
* If they can, "block" future messages from the person sending through the harmful content. Remember to take screenshots of any bullying messages sent first so that they can be used as evidence should this be required for any investigation.
* If the abuse and harassment is from a student or students at the same school, talk with the school's senior management team. They may be able to provide further support or facilitate discussion between those involved and their families.
* Remember young people make mistakes and do dumb things sometimes, so they need support from family and their close friends and may benefit from talking with a school counsellor.