Cyberlaw expert warns of dangers of young people sending nude images

Parry Aftab speaks at Facebook privacy and security event in Dublin

30 per cent of parents checked their child’s internet use just once a month or never, surveys show.

30 per cent of parents checked their child’s internet use just once a month or never, surveys show.


A leading cyberlaw expert has warned of the dangers of young people sending sexual or explicit content to each other.

Parry Aftab is considered one of the leading experts in the world on digital best practices, safety, privacy and security.

She was speaking at a global cyber bullying summit held at Facebook’s International Headquarters in Dublin on Saturday.

“Children and young people are facing all kinds of problems online. They’re using impulsive technologies and digital devices which allow you to do stuff without thinking about it. The things we wouldn’t say out loud, we do online,” she said.

Ms Aftab said children and young people are facing a “panoply” of problems online.

“Children are not communicating very effectively; they don’t have the digital skills, literacy and hygiene skills they need. Just because you know how to push the buttons doesn’t mean you know how to communicate with the person on the other side or they understand what you meant to say,” she said.

Ms Aftab said children and young people need to be aware of their digital footprint and be careful about what content they share online with others.

“Kids tell me they don’t realise the impact their digital footprint will have on their lives in thirty years time. What they say or post online can be dragged up and used against them in the future. Kids now don’t have the freedom that we have now,” she said.

“We have children and young people using impulsive technologies to take naked and sexual images of themselves and share it with their love of the moment or the group of boys or girls they want to meet,” she said.

“They then find those images are getting out of the hands of the intended recipient and into the hands of their school mates or into the hands of creeps,” she said.

She said there is value to websites that allow young people to post content anonymously online when looking for advice.

“There is a value to being able to go online and say, ‘my boyfriend wants to have sex with me and I’m not sure if I should’, without putting their name to it because Ireland is a small country,” she said.

Ms Parry said children in schools should be taught how to behave online before coding is introduced to the curriculum.

“Digital skills, being aware of privacy settings and knowing how to say things online should come before kids are taught coding,” she said.

She advised parents to talk with their children and to educate themselves about the online world.

A survey conducted by amárach Research for the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), found only 46 per cent of parents checked their child’s online behaviour weekly or more, compared with 54 per cent in 2014.

Some 30 per cent of parents said they checked their child’s internet use less than once a month or never. This compared with 26 per cent in 2014.

“All the kids I have spoken to during my time in Ireland, trust their parents more than any country I’ve ever seen.”

“My message to parents is: don’t freak. You don’t have to be an cyber expert. You need to communicate to your kids how much you care for them and let them know you’re there for them. If you don’t know the answers you can find out the answers - there is so much information and guidance out there now,” she said.