FOR young Australians, the internet can be a scary place.
Naked pictures, sexual harassment and death threats are just some of the things teenagers deal with on Facebook every day.
Police and politicians have been outspoken on the topic of cyber-bullying and their efforts to stamp it out.
This week, The Courier asked three local teenagers to tell us about bullying in their own words.
One schoolgirl said it was common for “naked selfies” – nude photos – of friends to be posted on Facebook by others as a form of bullying.
“Abby” said too many of her friends had sent their boyfriends naked pictures of themselves, only to see the photos go viral on the social networking website just hours later.
“The photos clog up my news feed, it happens that often,” she said.
The 16-year-old said she had been cyber-bullied ever since signing up to Facebook.
“I went to primary school with all these girls and when it came time to go to high school, we all got split up and obviously we all made new friends. All of a sudden they started abusing me over Facebook, calling me names, and sent private messages to my boyfriend saying I had been cheating on him.”
After months of abuse and not knowing who to turn to, Abby plucked up the courage to tell her mother, who advised her to block and delete the tormentors.
Abby’s mum then signed up to keep an eye on her daughter’s Facebook page.
“It was the best thing she’s ever done,” Abby said.
“I not only have her support if something nasty is posted on my wall but it means I wouldn’t put anything on Facebook that I wouldn’t be comfortable saying to my mum.
“I think there’s an answer in there, in that it makes you more aware when you know your parents are watching.”
For Year 7 student “Dylan”, an assembly at his school where police spoke about Brodie’s Law was a wake-up call.
“Cyber-bullying is happening to my friends all the time and although I haven’t been targeted yet, it’s good for people to know that there are consequences if you bully someone,” he said.
The 14-year-old said his older sister had been a victim of devastating abuse which led her to think about taking her life.
“It was scary to see my older sister so unhappy and I felt hopeless,” he said.
“As soon as someone puts something on Facebook it spreads so fast and it’s hard to stop it. And it doesn’t just happen on Facebook. Teens are bullied through Twitter, MySpace, text messages and over MSN.”
Dylan said seeing his mates and sister so upset made him anxious about using social media.
“I don’t use it all that often yet, but I’m scared of what might be to come,” he said.
For 16-year-old “Karla”, death threats and teasing forced her to shut down her Facebook account completely.
“I couldn’t handle the awful things that were posted on my wall every day,” she said.
“It was unbearable.
“It all started when a friend of mine started a rumour on Facebook. Within hours I had hundreds of posts on my wall – even from people who I’d never spoken to – calling me a slut and threatening to bash me.
“At the time I was so confused because I thought they were my friends, but obviously not.
“Initially, the thing that I struggled with was that I didn’t want to block them because then I couldn’t see what they were saying about me but after the bullying went on for more than three months I knew that was enough.”
* Names have been changed.