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Teens face lifelong mental illnesses as a result of the dangers that lurk online - psychologist


Senator Jillian Van Turnhout

Senator Jillian Van Turnhout

Senator Jillian Van Turnhout

TEENAGERS face lifelong mental illnesses including depression, anxiety disorders and social phobia as a result of the dangers that lurk online.

Forensic psychologist Dr Maureen Griffin told of the "devastating" impact of children finding that innocent photos on social media are being shared by online predators.

An RTE investigation found that images, largely taken in social settings, are being copied and uploaded to photo-sharing websites, many of which are classified as "extremely pornographic".

"It has a massive long term effect on their mental health because they quickly realise that they can never get the image back," she told the Irish Independent.

"It's the whole anxiety about who has seen it, who has not seen it, and what are people saying about it. It can lead to long term mental illness - although a lot depends on the supports that are there."

Children's Rights Alliance chief executive, Jillian van Turnhout, said greater awareness is needed among parents and teenagers.

Former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Jim Gamble, said many of the photographs are removed from the context of routine social media, where young girls may be surrounded by friends, and transposed into a pornographic context.

Meanwhile cyber psychologist Mary Aiken said online predators focus on a young person's vulnerability.

"You can have children, young adolescents, expressing their vulnerability online, saying 'I hate my friends, I hate my life, my life is miserable'," Ms Aiken said.

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