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Teenagers need our support, not criticism, as they navigate life online

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Imagine you’re a 14-year-old girl on the train on your way home from school, when out of nowhere a “dick pic” appears on your phone. Surprise! You’ve been cyber flashed.

It’s a form of harassment that didn’t exist even a few years ago, and highlights the fast-evolving digital world our teenagers now have to manage (along with all the more regular challenges of nearly being an adult).

Read more: Don't fall for it: a parent's guide to protecting your kids from online hoaxes

Cyber flashing involves sending unsolicited obscene images to strangers via AirDrop or Bluetooth on your smartphone.

Unlike old-fashioned flashing, in which the culprit is standing right in front of you, cyber flashing is anonymous. The sender positions themself in a shopping centre, sporting ground, or other public space and sends the photo to anyone within a 3-metre radius – it could be a teenager, an adult or even a 3-year-old holding mum’s phone. The victim will likely search around to identify the sender, but ultimately it is a guessing game; it could be anyone in your field of vision.

Like other online harassment such as posting threatening messages, photos or videos online or repeatedly sending unwanted messages, the aim of cyber flashing is to humiliate the victim, and incite fear. The anonymity of the communication exacerbates this.

In the case of the 14-year-old girl, she would have no opportunity to identify her harasser, to seek justice, or even gain an apology for........

© The Conversation