The new craze is where teenagers use Facebook to take near naked photos of themselves has cyber-safety experts horrified.
The Sneaky Hat trend has been branded a ”paedophile’s paradise” and involves mostly young people posing in nothing but a hat covering their genitals.
Countless Facebook pages and other sites, open for anyone to see, have sprung up showing male and female teens in provocative poses after reportedly originating at a Queensland highschool.
Cyber safety campaigner Susan Mclean said contributors to the fad were not only staining their futures but risking child pornography charges.
”It’s no use saying its just fun, it’s harmless fun, the consequences can be quite severe,” she said.
”It is going to end in tears and those pictures – it’s not like sending it on your phone to your boyfriend who may or may not send it on – this is on www (world wide web).
“They’re on public sites, anyone can see them and people are posting them with their names, they’re proud of the photos,” Ms Mclean, founder of Cyber Safety Solutions said.
A Queensland Police spokesperson said they were monitoring the trend but a Victoria Police spokesperson said there had been no reports they knew of in Victoria.
Incidents of teenagers being charged with possessing child pornography are growing and include a group of Colac Secondary College students who filmed a sexual act in their school gym.
”Children under the age of 18 all over Australia are routinely being charged with child pornography offences,” Ms Mclean, an ex-police officer, said.
The craze has spawned spin-offs such as girls and boys-only sites, and location-specific groups such as ‘Sneaky Hat Brisbane’.
Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said the lewd trend showed Australia had been given an ”epic fail” in cyber safety education.
”You’ve got the perfect storm here. You’ve got the immature teenage brain with the technology which is in the moment and of the moment,” he said.
”Combine those two things together and you have precisely the sort of behaviour you’re going to get and without any regard at all to the implications for the young person in the future.”
Dr Carr-Gregg said it warranted a review of the age children should be allowed onto Facebook.
”What it highlights for me is the lack of supervision and monitoring of so many young people using Facebook and it also raises the question of whether or not is 13 an appropriate age at which young people should have access to Facebook,” he said.
Ms Mclean said that as well as creating a “haven for paedophiles” the photos would ruin participants’ career prospects.
”What people don’t understand is that a large proportion of pictures that are on Facebook actually get cached into Google Images. If it gets onto Google Images it’s permanent, you cant just ring up Google and get your photo back,” she said.
by Robbo Green