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Call to make Facebook R18

AJA STYLES
Last updated 05:00 09/02/2011

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The mother of a 14-year-old girl at the centre of an Australian "sexting" scandal that has seen three boys convicted of underage sex crimes has called for Facebook to be banned for under-18s.

The boys responsible avoided serving jail time after pleading guilty in the Bunbury Children's Court to raping a girl over 13 and under 16, and are now registered sex offenders despite being aged 15 and 16 themselves.

In court it was revealed the boys had been drinking when they convinced the girl to sneak out on a Friday night, on August 27 last year, and meet them in a local park.

The boys then brought her back to one of the 16-year-olds' homes where she was plied with vodka and gave the boy oral sex. She then had intercourse with his other two friends in the bedroom. The sexual acts were filmed on a mobile phone and sent to others.

The mother of the girl, who spoke to radio 6PR under the pseudonym of "Jan", said the family would never get over the "humiliating" and "shameful" episode.

She said she thought she was a vigilant parent but her daughter had proved her wrong and had to now face the consequences of going to school despite being taunted.

"We thought because the computer was in the living room with us that we were keeping a pretty good eye on her being so close, but nope, they can be right under your nose ... they can still manage to get this stuff out there - you've got your webcams, you've got your iPhones and all that," she said.

"My advice to other parents is: check. Stand over their shoulder if that's what it takes. Let your kids hate you for being a busybody but keep an eye on them."

Now that the proceedings were over, Jan said her family had been able to breathe a sigh of relief. But her battle to prevent any further privacy breaches has continued after going through her daughter's 600 Facebook "friends" and discovering some of them were 40-year-old men.

"Now what on earth 40-year-olds have in common with a 15-year-old on Facebook? It doesn't add up to me," she said.

"...She's not unique that way, I'm not just saying it's her, it's other kids, I know it is. That's why I said they should not be allowed on Facebook.

"We've banned her from it, but you give a kid a mobile they've got free access to Facebook anyway, so how can you fight it if at every turn there's a way around it?"

She said the matter came to light when one of the boys then accessed a school computer to download the footage onto a thumb drive.

She said since the breach occurred at the school it was "taken right out of our hands at the get go" and reported to police.

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It became clear during the police investigation that the images were destined for Facebook, which was contacted to remove any postings of the graphic footage.

"When we first realised we went into panic mode, we banned her from her phone and Facebook, but you can ban them until the cows come home, they will still find a way to get back on Facebook and use friend's phones," Jan said.

"So there's no getting away from it, you just have to be so vigilant - you know, like a two-year-old. You've just got to constantly watch them because they just don't realise once it's up there for the world to see it, that's it - you can't take it back."

She said she didn't believe the boys deserved to go on the sex offender list because they were "just kids".

"They don't realise the consequences of what they've done and I don't believe they ever will," Jan said.

"... That's just what they do. That's OK, they see things on TV, you've only got to watch music shows and it's all sex anyway. You know, flaunting their bodies... It seems a huge problem but it's got to be fixed."

She said she felt for the boy's family and knew one was transferred by his parents to a new school.

She had insisted that their daughter return to her old school, as "there's got to be consequences for her as well".

"We don't believe that moving her out of the school would benefit so we've made her go back to that same school," Jan said.

"She gets sneered, she was getting bullied a few months after the incident coming back to the school which made life difficult for everybody but she had to deal with it."

She said her daughter was now doing much better.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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