HUNTER teenagers are posting half-naked photographs of themselves on internet competition pages in a trend authorities say is ‘‘disturbing’’ and bordering on ‘‘child pornography’’.
Networking social media website Facebook has been used to create event pages calling on teenagers, some as young as 13, to post pictures of themselves to gain ‘‘likes’’ or votes.
Viewers can leave comments and feedback on the photographs, some escalating into nasty and fierce arguments over body image.
The trend has made its way into the Hunter after first emerging overseas, raising concerns over the explicit images as well as the potential for cyber-bullying.
The Newcastle Herald discovered a site, named ‘‘newcastle’s montlhy [sic] most beautiful teen competition’’.
Set-up originally by three teenaged boys, who all appear to be under 18, the event page says ‘‘post your photo and the most likes will win’’. It offers dates with each of the boys as a ‘‘prize’’ for the top three photos.
The page can only be accessed by users who are invited to the event.
More than 1000 photos have been posted since the page’s first entry last week about 1400 people are listed as ‘‘attending’’ the event and almost another 2500 invited to join.
Northern region assistant police commissioner Carlene York said she was concerned the pages created ‘‘an avenue for bullying’’.
‘‘Bullying is the same no matter what mechanism,’’ she said. ‘‘We don’t encourage bullying at all, and people should know that any instance can be dealt with if there is evidence of a crime.
‘‘The difference with social media is the comments can be viewed permanently and any affects can be longer lasting and more devastating on the individual. We encourage more responsibility by [teenagers], both with posting photos and making comments.’’
The potential for bullying on the social media pages is only half the problem.
Department of Education regional school development officer Steve Harris said posting explicit photos online could have detrimental effects on a child’s life further down the track.
‘‘It’s almost close to child pornography,’’ he said
‘‘Part of our training that students go through focuses on the digital footprint they leave behind. It stresses that once photos are on the net, they can come back to haunt them and it could pose problems for future employment opportunities.’’
Assistant commissioner York said such pages could also bring up privacy concerns, with photos posted available to anyone online.
‘‘Facebook is good when used correctly but this type of competition is not supported by the police,’’ she said.
‘‘We recommend that young people don’t post photos. Anyone can use them once they’re up and they [users] need to be sure their security settings are adequately set.’’
Mr Harris acknowledged public school children were using the pages but he emphasised it was a wider community issue.
‘‘We have in place very strong cyber-bullying training and programs, and Facebook is blocked in public schools.
‘‘But we need to stress to parents that it is really important to keep an eye on what their children are doing online. We urge parents to monitor what their kids are doing and one way is to insist on being their child’s friend on Facebook,’’ he said.
The Newcastle Herald has reported the event page to Facebook.