The Australian government has released a short film for teenagers to demonstrate the risk of being ‘tagged for life’ online.
It all starts with a seemingly innocent picture of a boy and a girl with their arms around each other at school.
Soon the photo is posted to a blog and seen by the entire school, sparking online rumours, a fight, news reports and revenge plots to spread naked or drunken photos snapped on a mobile phone.
In just one week, friendships are ruined, school communities are divided and reputations are in tatters.
This particular story is played out by actors for the Australian government’s new campaign to warn young people and parents about the dangers of sexting and cyber bullying, but the scenario bears a strong resemblance to some of the recent ugly episodes of social networking.
Tagged, a 17 minute short film launched by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy this morning, was based on feedback from teenagers at hundreds of schools in Australia, as well as research into young people’s use of social media.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority commissioned Melbourne production company Great Southern Communications to make Tagged and it will be available to all schools.
“The Gillard Government takes the safety and security of all Australians, especially our young, very seriously,” Senator Conroy said.
The scenes in the film - including a fight captured on a mobile phone and posted online and teenagers taking nude photographs of each other and sending them to others - are similar to some recent incidents around Australia, as reported by Fairfax Media.
In June Facebook took down a “root rate” page that had attracted 1200 “likes” made up of students from Sydney schools including Mater Maria Catholic College in Warriewood, Barrenjoey High School, Cromer High School, Narrabeen Sports High School, Northern Beaches Christian School, Pittwater High School, Stella Maris College in Manly, Brigidine College in St Ives and Ravenswood School for Girls in Gordon.
The page critiqued the sexual performance and looks of some female students and included posts such as: “Chunky thighs, huge arse … always available for a root for those who are hard up”.
In March families of four West Australian boys who used a mobile phone to film sex acts with an underage girl vowed to fight to have their sons’ names removed from the sex offenders list.
The boys were put on the register under state law after pleading guilty to the sexual penetration of a girl over 13 years and less than 16, but they argued it had been consensual.
They were put on the list despite being spared jail terms for the offence, committed in August last year, because they were of a similar age to the girls.
The mother of the 14-year-old girl at the centre of the sexting incident also believed the boys didn’t deserve to be on the register, because they were “just kids”.
Perhaps the most high profile example this year is the video of a 16-year-old boy being bullied at a western Sydney school, before retaliating and throwing a 12-year-old boy to the ground
The video went around the world and was watched by tens of thousands after it was posted on YouTube, Facebook and then featured on several news programs and websites.
Both students were suspended after the fight in March, and the older boy went on to become an internet sensation, described as a “hero” by many.
But an expert on bullying, Professor Kenneth Rigby of the University of South Australia, said there was a risk that, rather than acting as a warning about the dangers of bullying, the video was “allowing people to revel in a violent spectacle”.
- Sydney Morning Herald