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Australian kids run wild web of humiliation and abuse

Among the crimes: cyber-bullying, stalking, harassment, menacing and even child pornography.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

Schoolyard teasing and gossip, was once restricted to the playground, has reached new heights in the digital world, reports Adelaide Advertiser, an Australian paper.

Parents and police officials in Adelaide have uncovered a hornet's nest of school children being "victimised, teased and mocked" on an Internet "spider web" of instant messaging and blogging.

This is all taking place without parental knowledge, and police say that parents do not understand the potentially devastating extent of the dark side of online social networking.

Children have been charged with an assortment of crimes such as cyber-bullying, stalking, harassment and menacing other students, as well as child pornography.

"There is now an enormous web in Adelaide - through blogs and SMS - an unbelievable spider web of communication," said one school leader, who asked not to be identified.

"It is having a huge effect on the social dynamics of our children. The computer is seen as a one-way mirror - it warps their sense of the real world. The reputations of children who make a mistake can be trashed.

"Kids can be victimised, teased and mocked for their boy or girl friends . . . and then laughed out of town."

With social networking, blogs, IM and SMS, and photosharing sites, the Internet provides many more options for spreading rumors and lies.

The senior school teacher said: "There are now huge networks of young people who feel they have a safe connection, but it's actually very loose and unsafe. Kids tell their parents their site is password-protected but then tell everyone the password and it gets passed on - so it's totally unprotected."
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