Stop posting sexually explicit photos on Facebook, parents urged

Parents who post Facebook pictures of themselves and their children in revealing outfits 'setting a bad example' 

Ministers, and education and social welfare chiefs lined up to urge parents to stop posting sexually explicit photos of themselves and their children on Facebook.

Addressing a conference on safe Internet use, social solidarity minister Michael Farrugia warned that a quick scroll through Facebook will easily reveal a bunch of adults “who don’t respect their own children”.

“These parents must be informed that certain pictures they post online raises a number of question marks,” he said. “If parents post pictures of their children wearing certain outfits and striking certain poses, then that will send a message to children that it is acceptable to post those pictures online.”

In a similar vein, Child Commissioner Pauline Miceli called for parents to be better trained on social media use, arguing that their posting of explicit photos risks rubbing off on their children.

“They must make better choices and provide a better example. If parents are posting such pictures, how can we expect their children not to follow suit?”

Alfred Grixti, head of the Foundation of Welfare Services, warned that Malta’s online might have become too permissive and that certain photos uploaded online “invite trouble”.

“Even when parents are celebrating a positive family event, they must be careful what pictures they post online.”

David Degabriele, the assistant director of curriculum management within the education ministry, said more resources must be placed into tackling cases of parents who provide bad examples to their children when posting pictures online.

“Everything you post online leaves a digital footprint and when you post something online, you’re essentially rescinding your ownership of it,” he said. “Not every parent is aware of this, but it is important that they provide a good example online. When parents post certain photos of themselves online, isn’t it obvious that their children are likely to follow suit?”

3,200 child sex abuse photos analyzed last year

During the conference, Agenzija Appogg revealed that it had received and analyzed some 32 web pages containing over 3,200 child sexual abuse images.

This followed reports filed by people through Appogg’s Child Web Alert hotline, part of an international network. After analyzing the pictures, Appogg then passes them on to Interpol, which informs countries of child abuse photos hosted on their servers.

It was also revealed that 270 victims of online abuse rang Appogg’s national Supportline last year, with cyberbullying and sexting topping the reasons for support.

The conference was organised following the launch of the fourth phase of BeSmartOnline, a project by the Malta Communications Authority aimed at promoting safe Internet use amongst children.

A number of recent resources were presented, including a digital game that promotes critical thinking that has been installed on all tablets distributed in primary schools, and workshops on digital citizenship that are now being used in PSD classes in years 3,4 and 5.

An extract from a PSD book on digital citizenship
An extract from a PSD book on digital citizenship

Digital economy minister Manuel Mallia said that a balance must be struck between promoting technology and protecting vulnerable people from the risks it poses.

“We must instill skills in the younger generation to ensure a healthy and positive digital experience, without engendering a fear of technology,” he said.

 Education minister Evarist Bartolo struck a more cautious tone, warning that the honing of digital skills amongst children must not come at the expense of human contact.

“The tragic irony of technology is that it helps us communicate with each other, while at the same time hindering actual human contact,” he said. “Some kindergarten children already have more contact with digital realities than they do with people, and have problem communicating with other children at school.

The tragic irony of technology is that it helps us communicate with each other, but at the same time hinders actual human contact Evarist Bartolo

“Digital technology has become so encompassing that it is causing us to lose human contact and rush our lives more in the illusion that we are acting more productively, while the quality of our lives and interactivity is degenerating.”

He also warned that a digital divide could be forming in Malta, between people who have Internet access and people who don’t.

“We mustn't take it for granted that our entire society is connected to the web, and there are some parts of Malta who are excluded from the Internet. These tend to be the same people who are socially excluded, and if we don’t compensate for these children in our education, then they will end up even more excluded.”

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