Police warn against sexting and cyberbullying
Police today highlighted the “serious negative impact” that cyberbullying and sexting can have on young people.
Detective Inspector Karema Flood appealed to parents and guardians to use online resources that offered tips about how to use the internet safely.
She was speaking as the island marked the international Safer Internet Day.
Ms Flood, of the Bermuda Police Service’s vulnerable persons unit, offered advice in conjunction with Cybertips, a programme run by the Cabinet Office and the Department of Information and Communications Technology Policy and Innovation, to provide information about internet safety and security.
They warned: “Before you engage in either activity, take a minute and think before you click.”
Ms Flood said: “Cyberbullying and sexting can have serious negative impact on young people.
“VPU advises against engaging in such activity since what might appear on the surface to be harmless or fun could result in individuals being prosecuted before the courts.”
She added: “However, more importantly, the negative psychological and emotional impact on victims of cyberbullying or individuals who may have explicit images they shared with someone being revealed to others, could be long lasting and have tragic consequences.”
She said that a “wealth of information” about safe internet use was available on the Cybertips website.
Ms Flood added: “We urge parents and guardians to become familiar with Cybertips, and make use of the invaluable information available there.”
A police spokesman said cyberbullying gave an “illusion of anonymity made possible by the internet”.
He added: “Cyberbullying appears easy to the bully because they do not see their victim’s reactions in person and thus the impact of the consequences may seem small to them.
“In reality, however, these consequences can be life altering to the extent that victims may become distressed enough to require medical intervention, self-harm or worse.
“The ironically individualistic nature of social networking activities makes it difficult to recognise a victim of cyberbullying, but telltale signs include avoiding or being anxious around the computer or cell phone and a sudden change in behavioural patterns.”
The spokesman said that sexting was “the action of sending sexually revealing pictures of oneself or sexually explicit messages to another individual or group”.
He added that it was increasingly common among young people who use social media.
The spokesman said: “The permanence and pervasiveness of the internet make it a fertile ground for passing such messages and images, at the risk of them becoming viral.
“Beyond the personal trauma and humiliation that sexting may cause, there are judicial ramifications as well.
“Depending on the age of the subject, sharing these images could result in those involved being prosecuted for various child pornography offences which carry a term of imprisonment up to ten years.”
• For more information about safe internet use visit www.cybertips.bm . To report cyberbullying, sharing of explicit images without your permission or child pornographic images, call the Vulnerable Persons Unit on 247-1739 or the main police number, 295-0011 .