Youthline is urging young people to ask for help if they find themselves in uncomfortable situations online.
This comes after a television sting led Police to investigate five men who made sexually explicit comments to a ficticious 14 year old girl in an online chat-room and arranged to meet up with her.
Youthline National spokesperson Stephen Bell says it’s vital that young people protect themselves against all forms of cyber bullying and abuse, and believes education is the key to making this happen.
“Parents, schools, churches – everyone who is part of a young person’s life needs to help make them aware about what they may come across in cyber space and make it a topic they are willing to openly talk about.
Mr Bell says it’s vital we talk to young people about ‘stranger danger’ on the web.
“Many people go online to make new friends and express themselves through social networking sites, we wouldn’t discourage that, but there needs to be some due diligence and security checking done -
Don’t give out personal information and don’t associate with someone online that you wouldn’t befriend in the ‘real world.’”
Mr Bell says most young people are vigilant when using chat rooms and social networking, ‘but it is never foolproof.’
“The most important thing is for young people to understand that no matter how entrenched they are in a situation, there is a way out.”
If you or someone you know is concerned about an online situation Youthline encourages you to talk to a trusted adult, or you can:
Free phone: 0800 37 66 33
Media requests ph: Stephen Bell - 027 2718151