Child protection organisations and senior gardaí have urged parents to monitor their children’s use of computers and smartphones after a video of a 14-year-old girl posing semi-naked was posted on the internet.
Gardaí are trying to track people who downloaded images of the teenager, which she took on a webcam in her bedroom.
She seemingly did not realise the video would be uploaded to the web by somebody else who was monitoring the recording.
Superintendent Michael Comyns confirmed gardaí in Fermoy, Co Cork, had received a complaint from the girl’s parents following the incident last week.
The video, which has since been removed by the internet provider, was posted online after the girl’s involvement in a chatroom.
It is believed that before it was taken down, at least one boy of similar age saw the video and told a number of his friends and the video then went viral.
Young teenage boys who viewed the material will be questioned by Garda juvenile liaison officers, but are unlikely to be prosecuted.
However, it is a serious offence for an adult to download child pornography and those found to have done so are almost certain to face a jail sentence. Teachers in a number of secondary schools in the area warned students not to look at or pass on any downloaded videos of the girl.
Supt Comyns said the HSE had been informed of the incident.
“The most important thing is that young people have to know who they are in contact with.
“They have to realise that anything that goes on the internet is there for the whole world to see. Obviously, this has caused the girl and her family a lot of distress.
“Parents need to become more aware of the dangers of this technology.”
ISPCC director of services Caroline O’Sullivan said: “I’m concerned about who asked her to do this. Coercion is a form of abuse. She’s a child already going through adolescence, which is a difficult period. The guilt is not her’s. This girl will need all the support she can get.”
She said teenagers, for all their technological prowess, were still “naïve” about posting personal details and pictures on social networking sites.
Many, she said, have 500 to 600 Facebook “friends” but probably only know a fraction of them personally.
“There are predatory elements out there.
“It’s critical law-enforcement agencies respond to them as fast as criminals are responding to this [the internet]. The one good thing about it is there is a permanent record [of who looked or downloaded]. I hope the gardaí are given all the necessary resources they need for this case.”
Children At Risk In Ireland chief executive Mary Flaherty also warned young people “not to do or say anything online that they wouldn’t do on the street”.
Paul Durrant, general manager of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of Ireland urged people to report similar illicit child images on websites.
He said internet providers would act immediately to take down anything which appeared illegal.
People can report such images via hotline.ie or by contacting 1890 610710.
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