Teenagers warned about ‘terrifying’ online trend

Jade Weatherill. (S)
Jade Weatherill. (S)

Teenagers from Harrogate are being warned about the dangers of a terrifying trend to post provocative pictures of themselves online.

Web pages featuring pictures of barely-dressed Harrogate teenagers have been set up on Facebook, along with ‘Secret’ sites where vicious rumours are circulating.

Some have already been shut down but others are thriving with thousands of visitors and ‘likes’.

Now Harrogate student Jade Weatherill, 17, who has seen the devastating impact such sites can have, is to front a national campaign to warn other teenagers about it.

“A friend of mine from Harrogate had her picture taken when she was in the bath and posted online,” she said.

“She didn’t know about it and it destroyed her.”

This young girl had more than 100 friend requests after the picture was posted online, and said she was unable to trust people afterwards.

“She wouldn’t leave the house, she missed her prom and her exams,” said Jade.

“She was so embarrassed and ashamed.

“She’s now getting her life back on track but she was badly affected.

“We want to try and stop people from putting themselves in vulnerable situations.

“Not everybody realised what they are doing, or how far it can go.”

Now working with a national charity called Fixers, Jade is leading a team of young people from Harrogate to produce a viral advert aimed at 13 to 17-year-olds.

The video from the Safe and Sound group, which joined with Fixers through Harrogate Youth Services, will be posted on social media websites like Facebook.

“It’s an issue that needs to be targeted,” said Jade, who is studying health and social care at Harrogate College.

“If we can get one person to think about not putting compromising pictures of themselves online or being rude and obnoxious, that would be a great thing for us to achieve.”

The group say they have witnessed girls as young as 12 posting sexually explicit comments online.

And they have been aware of girls aged 14-17 posting naked and semi-naked images of themselves, or sending sexually explicit text messages to their boyfriends, which have then been uploaded onto the internet when the relationship ends.

“They are either doing it for 10 minutes of fame,” said Jade.

“Silly pages are set up to get people’s blood boiling.

“But it’s a terrifying thought. When you put a photo on Facebook, you never know who will see it.”