Children as young as 12 are victims of revenge pornography - warns charity
Children are becoming victims of 'revenge porn' with sexual images shared on social networks like Instagram.
It follows recent reports which confirmed a number of high-profile TV and showbiz stars have had their images illegally placed on various porn sites.
But the Irish Society for the Prevention Of Cruelty To Children (ISPCC) has now issued a stark warning that younger children are increasingly at risk from ruthless porn pedlars.
So-called 'revenge porn' is the rapidly growing phenomenon of sharing private or explicit images or videos of someone without that person's consent.
The private images are often shared using either social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, or uploaded to a range of sexually explicit websites.
ISPCC chief executive Grainia Long says revenge porn among children is now a "growing issue" in Ireland.
"The prevalence is among 12 to 14 year olds. But we're not surprised by the growth of children becoming victims.
"For a number of years we've been raising issues to do with children accessing pornography. In a lot of cases we get calls from children and young people who have taken an image of themselves and shared it with someone entirely innocently. But sometimes that image is exploited in some way by another young person.
"It's done without consent, and that causes massive harm and distress. And in some cases it finds its way to what are called 'collectors'.
"These are individuals or organisations who are in the business of exploiting young people. However, parents shouldn't think that all children who have a phone are sending images and are therefore risking becoming a victim."
At present, revenge porn is not classified as a crime in Ireland. In September, the Law Reform Commission recommended legislation to tackle online posting of sexually explicit images without consent. Speaking at the time, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald stressed the Government planned to "act now" and provide protection against revenge porn and the posting of voyeuristic material.
However, in a statement to the Sunday Independent, the Department of Justice refused to provide a firm timeline for its implementation.
Asked if it expected the legislation will be introduced before the end of next year, a spokesperson said the minister is "carefully considering" the commission's proposals, and would bring proposals to Government "as soon as possible."