What goes online stays, youth told

MANY of us have done it — uploaded embarrassing photos of a drunken night out or made Facebook posts better forgotten.

It may even be a friend who has posted something that seemed harmless and funny at the time but later had serious consequences.

Youth Affairs Minister Ryan Smith was at the Patterson Lakes Community Centre on Thursday to launch a new social media safety campaign, It's There For Life, aimed at making young users of social media aware of the repercussions of posting online.

An increasing number of people have reported missing out on jobs, being bullied, stalked or even reported to police after images or posts have been placed on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

The state government initiative helps young people know how to safeguard their privacy and protect their reputations and urges them to think twice before they upload, send private photos or share personal details online.

"The web has a long memory and once something gets online, it could be there for life," Mr Smith said. "We are not saying don't post comments and images on social media, we are saying think twice before you do."

A 2009 federal government review of cyber-safety research showed more than 92 per cent of young people were concerned about social media privacy issues and more than 40 per cent of young people had pictures posted online without their permission.

"Social media is a great tool, but it also has potentially damaging impacts. As young people go forward and start a career or enter into relationships their digital reputation stays with them for life," Mr Smith said.

"We want young Victorians to have the best start, but if you've posted something inappropriate online there's a chance a prospective employer may have found the post and made a judgment before they've even met you. The simple fact is what goes online stays online."

Schools, Scouts and Guides Victoria, Life Saving Victoria, the Foundation for Young Australians, the Student Youth Network, Beacon and Teenage Expo have gotten behind the initiative.

As part of the campaign, young people have the chance to come up with a design, image or video that gets the message across.

The competition ends on April 14.

Details: youthcentral.vic.gov.au/cybersmarts.

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