Sadleir said children were oblivious to the consequences of their actions.
Sadleir said children were oblivious to the consequences of their actions.

SA kids falling for nude selfie craze

By Kamini Padayachee Time of article published Oct 9, 2014

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Durban - Children, some as young as 11, are sending naked pictures of themselves on social media networks at “an alarming rate”.

Media law attorney Emma Sadleir, who spoke about the legal and reputational risks of using social media at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday, said sexting, in which sexually explicit messages were sent via cellphones, had reached “epidemic proportions” among children.

“It is out of control. I am getting calls every day about children doing this, mostly from their parents, who cannot believe it has happened.

“It is not just teenagers. I am aware of cases involving 11- and 12-year-olds.”

Sadleir said children were oblivious to the consequences of their actions and they could be convicted for distributing child pornography.

In March, a 17-year-old Bloemfontein girl was convicted of this charge and given a suspended sentence after she sent a naked picture of herself to a man.

In another incident, two Gauteng boys thought they were sexting exclusively with a female pupil from another school, but the pictures ended up on social media.

Sadleir said the photo messaging application Snapchat was popular among children and was being used for sexting.

Snapchat allows a user to send images to a selected group of people and sets a time limit for how long the receivers can view the images, from one to 10 seconds.

After the time limit, the image is no longer available on the receiver’s device and is not saved on the application’s servers.

“Children think that using this application is safe because it is apparently removed after 10 seconds, but anything that is sent digitally does not just disappear. It can be retrieved with minimal technical know-how.”

She said Instagram, another social media service, was also popular because it allowed users to share video and images over a range of social media sites including Twitter and Facebook.

“They take hundreds of selfies and hashtag everything they post so they can gain followers. Yet they have no idea who these followers are. It is like putting CCTV footage of your life on social media.”

Sadleir said all social media users needed to remember the billboard rule when they shared content.

“If you would not want your picture on a billboard next to your name on the freeway, do not share it on social media.”

Childline KZN director Vanespiri Pillay said sexting by children was becoming a “huge problem” in the province.

“We are getting calls on our crisis line from parents and we have included it in our outreach programmes to educate children, teachers and parents about the dangers of sexting.

“We are also seeing revenge tactics at play when young couples break up. The boyfriend or girlfriend will share nude images of their former partner with others to get back at them.”

She said children lacked the emotional maturity to understand that sexting was wrong.

“Apart from the maturity, there is also peer pressure and substance abuse that can lead to errors in judgement.”

Pillay said parents needed to monitor their children’s use of the internet and cellphones.

“Parents have to understand the technology their children are using and educate them about the dangers. Often they buy their children fancy cellphones but do not understand any of the features.”

The Mercury

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