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Concern over student ‘sexting’

Authorities tasked with tackling cyberbullying in Bermuda are becoming increasingly concerned over the prevalence of “sexting” among young pupils in schools.

Police and staff from the Department of E-Commerce go into primary schools, as well as middle schools and high schools, to warn students of the perils of exchanging sexually explicit images.

They have warned that the distribution of sexual or pornographic images could result in serious, long-term consequences for pupils, including prosecution and criminal proceedings.

Meanwhile, community officers urged parents to be aware of their children's cyber-activities and try to create an open dialogue about their online interactions.

Marisa Stones, director of the department of E-Commerce, told The Royal Gazette that the prevalence of mobile phones and the myriad of apps now available had facilitated sexting as well as cyberbullying.

“I would say that sexting in schools is our most serious concern in Bermuda at the moment,” she said.

“It seems to involve younger and younger students. When we first started talking about the phenomenon in schools, a few did not want us to talk about it, but now they realise it is an issue.

“Now we have to talk about it at primary schools because it is happening at primary schools. It's upsetting when you have it going on in primary schools, although middle schools are the area where, sadly, a lot of this is going on.

“That is where we really try to encourage the teachers to have discussions on a regular basis with pupils about the long-term consequences that their actions can have for them, and we get that information to the parents, too.

“Unfortunately, sometimes when we speak to students, they do not see that their actions have serious consequences.”

The three-strong E-Commerce team works with police community action teams (CAT) across the Island to provide teachers and pupils with guidance on the subjects of cyberbullying and safe internet usage.

They also meet with parent-teacher associations to help to educate parents, and can respond directly to specific incidents at schools where teachers have raised concerns.

Pc Cerepha Bridgeman, who is part of the Western CAT, said: “The level of fear within students at middle schools over what they are doing, whether it is sexting or cyberbullying, is not very high. The fear of the legal consequences of exchanging these kind of sexually explicit pictures does not register with them or mean a lot.

“That is why the role of the parents is so vital. Parents and guardians can empower their children and set an example of the standards of behaviour they expect on social media or online.”

Pc Adrian Haynes, who is part of the Central CAT, added: “The exchange and circulation of explicit images or pictures where a person's privacy has been invaded is a very serious situation.

“If you are participating in this kind of behaviour, you must stop because it can have legal and criminal repercussions, regardless of whether you delete the message or not. Once it is in cyberspace, it is there for good.”

Risky behaviour: police and staff from the Department of E-Commerce are going into schools to warn students about the perils of exchanging sexually explicit images

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Published January 15, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated January 15, 2016 at 8:24 am)

Concern over student ‘sexting’

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