A sext out of context

Mia Freedman’s article on sexting was published in The Age recently:

Imagine if every dumb, embarrassing and potentially illegal thing you’ve ever done was captured permanently for the public record. In words and sometimes in pictures. Imagine if every journalist, partner, employer, police officer, teacher, political adversary, administrator, public servant and anyone else with an internet connection (including your children or future children) had access to that information in the time it took to punch your name into a Google search. For the rest of your life.

Fortunately for most of us, the idiotic behaviour of our school days endures only in anecdotes, told at reunions or after a few drinks.

But what if they weren’t just funny stories? What if all the stupid decisions we made back then lingered like a virus, infecting every aspect of our future?

Welcome to the reality for children and teens, where everything they do online has the ability to seriously screw with their lives forever.

Read the entire article here.

Click, and Facebook revises privacy

This recent article from The Age and Sydney Morning Herald explains how Facebook is sending incorrect information about you to your friends:

Facebook assumes the briefest click on an item is endorsement enough for sharing, making social networking much easier, or much harder to control, depending on your point of view.

One morning this week, Facebook told me a friend has used a dating application the night before, one called Are You Interested? It told not just me, but all those it recognised as his friends.

His nocturnal love-seeking business was announced automatically, without Facebook checking that spreading that fact was OK with him, and without checking it was true.

It wasn’t. He was not using it, but deleting an app he found irritating. Facebook’s new automatic settings are not concerned with niceties such as intention; he ‘used’ it, and the news was spread anyway.

Read the entire story here.

“Facebook’s power should worry us all” – The Age

An excerpt from the article published in The Age on 10 October.

If Facebook was a government agency, its power would be as undisputed as it would be frightening.

Even today Facebook continues to deny there is a problem with its tracking and is pushing ahead with “frictionless sharing”, whereby a user’s activities are published on their profiles without any prompting by them.


Both Facebook and Google prefer to talk about empowering you the user to exert control over your privacy settings, rather than what they are doing with your information and with whom they are sharing it. It’s all part of their quest to gain as much information about you as possible so that it can be traded for the purpose of helping more targeted advertising.

A small but growing number of people are withdrawing from Facebook and entering into a self-imposed exile but one wonders what it will take before the penny drops for the rest of us that we have willingly surrendered our identity to corporations that have a cavalier disregard to privacy.

Which raises the question – if Facebook and Google place a value on your identity then why shouldn’t you?

Read the entire article here.


Teens learn true dangers of cyberspace

Recently The Age published a report on what students are across in term of cybersafety. These include:

  • ‘stranger danger’
  • rejecting requests from randoms on Facebook

What they’re not across includes:

  • Google Images taking snapshots of any Facebook and/or Flickr photos that are not set to private
  • ramifications of sexting
  • implications of photo tagging

cybersafety tips

Brodie’s law to be used to cut out school bullying

Last week The Age published a story about how a new law regarding workplace bullying can be used to protect school staff from online abuse.

Students or parents involved in cyber bullying could be jailed for up to 10 years under a Baillieu government push to stamp it out.

The Victorian government will use Brodie’s law – which amended the Crimes Act to allow 10-year prison terms for workplace bullying – to protect principals, teachers, and students who are subjected to severe cases of online abuse.

Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon and Teaching Profession Minister Peter Hall have also asked their departments to examine other legal avenues for victims, admitting the problem is getting worse.

”We have seen far too many examples of teachers, principals and students being bullied to the point where their lives and reputations have been ruined,” Mr Hall said.

The move comes amid continuing pressure from principals, who had accused the government of not doing enough to tackle cyber bullying in schools – not just for students, but for the growing problem of parents and students using the web to abuse principals and teachers.

In one primary school, a parent used Facebook to spread accusations that a principal had ”manhandled” their son. The department is also aware of several anonymous postings on a website called ”Rate My Teachers” – where some students have branded teachers as paedophiles or accused them of misconduct – and a number of gossip sites have been set up targeting school staff.

But the problem can also prove fatal for children: the government says that as recently as a few weeks ago, a young girl involved in a cyber-bullying incident killed herself by stepping in front of a moving train.

Mr Dixon said the government had gone to great lengths to fund programs and educate schools about cyberbullying, ”however, under certain circumstances it makes sense to look to appropriate legal measures to protect people’s rights and their lives”.

Under pressure from schools, the education ministers last week asked Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark to clarify Brodie’s law to ensure it provided protection for principals, teachers and students.

The law – named after the 19-year-old waitress who committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied in the cafe where she worked – provides a maximum 10-year jail term for people engaged in the most serious and systematic cases of bullying and cyber bullying.

The Attorney-General said Brodie’s law did apply in schools, meaning parents, teachers, or even young children could be punished, although no one under the age of 10 could be brought before a criminal court.

Principals welcomed the news, while Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said it would cause people to ”think twice” before engaging in cyber attacks.

But teachers have raised concerns about the Coalition’s latest ”tough on crime” initiative.

”I’m struggling to think of very many circumstances where cyber bullying would warrant a 10-year penalty,” said Australian Education Union branch president Mary Bluett. ”We should throw our efforts into education and support.”

Australian Principals Federation president Chris Cotching said that as the employer of principals and teachers, the education department had a ”duty of care” to intervene by cautioning parents or imposing legal sanctions.

Frank Sal, president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals said he had seen too many incidents of vile web postings destroying careers.

This story also relates to having a  good digital footprint – being responsible for what you publish and realising that your online reputation can impact on your ‘real life’ reputation.

The consequences of sexting

This information on ‘sexting’ is from the Victoria Legal Aid site.

Child pornography

You could be charged by the police with producing child pornography if:

  • you take a nude or semi-nude picture of a person under 18, even if they are your friend and consent (agree) to the picture being taken
  • you take photos or video of a person under 18 involved in sexual activity or posing in an indecent sexual manner (or who looks like they are).

You could also be charged with possessing child pornography if you go onto the internet and download pornography showing people under 18.

If you put a pornographic photo or video on the internet or your phone, print a photo, or email or text it to a friend, you could be charged with publishing or transmitting child pornography. You could be charged even if you are the same age or younger than the person in the picture or video.

People found guilty of sexual offences or child pornography are stopped from working or volunteering with children – for example, as a teacher or a sports coach – or volunteering with children.

Mobile phone pictures and the risks of ‘sexting

’‘Sexting’ or sending ’sext messages’ is where nude and/or sexual images are taken on a mobile phone, often by young people and their friends. This is a crime if the photo includes a person under 18. Sexting is already leading to young people being charged by police with child pornography offences.

Think carefully about the consequences of taking or sending pictures of your friends on your mobile phone, especially if they are not fully dressed and even if they agree. You could be charged by police for committing a criminal offence.

It may seem like harmless fun, but be careful – once you send pictures electronically they can become part of your ‘digital footprint’ and this lasts forever. It could damage your future career prospects or relationships.

Victoria Legal Aid

These newspaper articles illustrate these points with real life examples of the implications: