Officially Facebook does not allow anyone under the age of 13 to have an account; however this does not seem to be stopping an increasing number of primary school students from joining the social networking site. The consequences of children who are too young to fully understand the implications of sharing information in cyber space is now becoming apparent.

It has been reported that some students are being pressured into posting pornographic images of themselves while others are inexperienced  to realise that they are ‘chatting’ with a potential predator rather than a friend.

St Joseph’s College in Geelong has warned parents about the dangers of social networking sites after it appeared a senior student had asked a grade 5 pupil to give him sexual images.

However school principal Paul Tobias told parents that a computer hacker assumed the older boy’s Facebook identity and was “cleverly collecting child pornography”.

“The trouble is that so many parents are not digital natives. I’m 55 and I’m sort of struggling to work out how this has happened,” Mr Tobias explained yesterday.

Cyber safety expert and Generation Next speaker Susan McLean said this was a wake-up call for parents and schools to engage with technology.

“Previously schools did not become involved in things that occurred ‘out of hours.’ It was not their business or concern, however with cyber bullying, harassment and sexting, where the parties involved are often from within the same school or neighbouring schools, the problem is firmly thrust into the hands of the school”.

Her advice to parents was “This is parenting in the 21st century. Saying that ‘I don’t understand it’ just doesn’t cut it anymore. Teens are often not aware that their words and or photos, which may have been intended for a small audience, sometimes find their way to a larger one, often with both the unexpected and undesirable consequences.”

This comes at a time when the Australian Federal Police have launched an anti sexting educational video warning teenagers of the risk of sending provocative images from their mobile phones. The video lasting nearly 2 minutes can be viewed here

It ends with the tag line “Think you know what happens to your images, who will see them, how it will affect you. Think again.” The aim is to make young people aware that if they send an image it can end up anywhere.

The video is supported by Think U Know, an Internet safety program delivering interactive training to parents, carers and teachers through primary and secondary schools across Australia.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha
Source: Sun Herald. Think U Know