Durban The heads of 27 boys’ schools attended a three-day conference, where presentations took place on a wide variety of topics within the education sphere, from leadership to digital learning and a healthy lifestyle.

With social media dominating the teen years, Emma Sadleir, a specialist in media law, highlighted the dangers surrounding media platforms which can have an immediate and far-reaching impact on a teen’s life.

Citing a recent incident at a Johannesburg school, Sadleir said a 15-year-old boy had sent more than 120 messages to a 14-year-old girl asking her to send him naked photos of herself after they met at a party the previous evening. The girl eventually relented and sent a picture, which he immediately circulated to his friends. As a result, the young girl tried to commit suicide and is in hospital in intensive care.

“Teens are all sending and receiving naked pictures. Sexting is becoming a social norm, but it is against the law,” said Sadleir, explaining that if you were taking a picture, you were creating child pornography and if you sent a naked picture, that was distribution of child pornography.

She said while Facebook’s fastest growth was among women over the age of 55, teens now favoured WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat.

While many teens believe Snapchat pictures or messages are automatically deleted, Sadleir said this was not accurate because of a recent update in their terms and conditions. She warned that social media companies were constantly updating their terms and conditions which few teens read.

Social media have a vast number of algorithms which pick up any aspect of your life, whether portrayed in a photo or a message.

“Social media platforms are free, but you are not getting it for free. You are paying for every morsel of information you give to them,” she said.

Independent on Saturday

Categories: Education