Warning about social network photographs

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Lurgan College have taken steps to educate pupils and parents about the pitfalls of social networking after revelations about a porn site featuring images of schoolgirls.

Lurgan College principal Trevor Robinson made the pro-active move of contacting parents to warn them of the dangers of their children posting photos of themselves to social networking sites after he was made aware of a website that had ‘stolen’ images of schoolgirls from a number of schools in Northern Ireland.

Portadown College and Craigavon Senior High are understood to have sent similar correspondence to parents when they too were made aware of the website.

In a BBC Spotlight programme aired on Tuesday night reporter Ciaran Tracey exposed the adult website which featured images of schoolgirls from Northern Ireland schools.

The programme led with a feature on two women whose ‘exes’ had posted intimate pictures and videos of them online then discussed the alarming phenomenon among teenager known as ‘sexting’ whereby they send sexual images to each other via their phones.

The reporter surveyed 200 teenage school children and found that 63% had seen a sexual image of someone they knew, 26% felt pressured into sending a ‘sext’ and 14 had actually sent one.

During the half hour programme the BBC reporter also revealed he had uncovered a hardcore pornographic website including over 700 photos of schoolgirls from Northern Ireland.

He said the girls were mostly in school uniform, some showing a little underwear and some showing a little flesh.

The galleries have since been taken down.

He added neither the girls nor their schools had done anything wrong, that the pictures had been taken in innocence and then had been uploaded in the context of other pornography for “the use for perverts”.

The BBC brought the website to the attention of the PSNI’s specialist child protection unit who said under current legislation the images were inappropriate but not indecent and they would continue to investigate the matter to ascertain if any other criminal offence could be identified.

On the day the programme aired Mr Robinson stated: “The BBC Spotlight programme should act as a timely reminder of the importance of the online safety of our young people.

“The schools will continue to work closely with statutory agencies, including the Craigavon Policing and Community Safety Partnership, in order to provide information, support and protection for our pupils and our school communities.”