Teens and porn warning issued

  • Cyber warning: Sloane Wilson, acting junior analyst at the Government’s Department of ICT Policy and Innovation

    Cyber warning: Sloane Wilson, acting junior analyst at the Government’s Department of ICT Policy and Innovation


Primary school children have shared explicit pictures of themselves on mobile phones, a technology expert revealed yesterday.

Sloane Wilson, an acting junior analyst at the Government’s Department of ICT Policy and Innovation, said images were distributed by young people “as soon as they have a phone”.

She added: “We have received reports of young people in Primary 6 sharing inappropriate pictures and videos of themselves.

Ms Wilson said: “It gets worse when they get to middle school.”

She pointed out that some posts or content shared on social media can have serious consequences.

She said that having on a device a photograph of someone under 18 naked was a criminal offence, and that parents were responsible for their children’s behaviour.

Ms Wilson warned: “It’s an offence to spread untruths, it’s an offence to tell someone ‘I will kill you’, it’s an offence to threaten someone to beat them up by a text message or Whatsapp.

“A big one is it’s an offence to have a naked photo of someone under the age of 18.

“What we try to tell these young people is that, in Bermuda, if you take an image of yourself and you’re under 18, you have just created child pornography.

“Then you send it to someone else, you distributed child pornography. So it’s important that they understand.

“A lot of these offences are punishable in Bermuda from the age of 8.”

She added: “I think the biggest issue for us is the sharing of inappropriate content.

“These young people are not understanding that once they put something on the internet, it’s there for ever.

“When they go to apply for college, university or to apply for a job or scholarship, these things are out there, creating the digital profile, this is what people see when they look you up.”

Ms Wilson said students were motivated by a desire for popularity and acceptance and shared images “because everybody else is doing it”.

She added some youngsters had seen adults do the same so they thought it was acceptable.

Ms Wilson delivers workshops to schools as part of safe surfing group Cybertips and works with police and other organisations to provide information and skills to use the internet safely.

She said children were sharing images of “whatever they find intriguing or interesting”, including pictures of themselves and friends.

She added that young people should remember that they lose control of how and where information or pictures are used if they send them to others.

Ms Wilson explained: “The biggest conversation I have with parents is, I ask them to have an open conversation with their young person as to what is expected of them once they’re given this technology.

“What rules do they have to follow? What are the consequences for breaking those rules? It’s about the parents leading by example as well.

“Also, access is a big one. Parents give their children a phone but they don’t know the password to their child’s phone.

“We try to remind parents that they are legally responsible for their children until they become adults.

“You cannot register a mobile phone in Bermuda unless you are an adult so the parent is legally liable for that device, therefore they should have access at all times.”

She was speaking after Deana Puccio, a social-media expert and former New York court prosecutor, told a local audience last week the average age a child was exposed to pornography is 11. Other concerns related to contact with strangers, both on island and in other countries.

Ms Wilson said parents should be aware of their children’s video-game playing, where communication about the game can turn into the sharing of personal information and “escalate from there”.

She said: “A lot of people think that Bermuda sits very nicely in this pristine bubble and I tell parents all the time, that bubble has popped.”

Ms Wilson added that online bullying was also a problem.

She said to watch out for any changes in their child’s behaviour, such as a significant increase or reduction in phone use.

Other indicators included packed lunches returning home uneaten, missing personal belongings or loss of interest in activities.

Ms Wilson said: “Every parent knows their child, so any tiny little thing that you feel may be off with your child, just watch it, monitor it, then talk to your child about it, because it could be something bigger than what it may seem to you.

“A lot of times, especially when a child is being harassed online, they don’t verbalise that very well.”

Parents and caregivers can visit the Cybertips website at www.cybertips.bm for advice.

Ms Wilson also recommended commonsensemedia.org, which reviews media like apps, films and video games to assess their content and suitability.

She suggested parents ask if they can look over the child’s social-media accounts together.

Ms Wilson said if concerning content was found, adults should make screenshots or printouts.

Incidents can be reported to schools, the police’s vulnerable persons unit, or on the Cybertips website, where the information is sent to police, the child and family services department and the ICT policy team.

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