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A Dunedin teen who viewed graphic child sex-abuse material online was exhibiting ''youthful curiosity'', his counsel says.
Joshua Philip Parcell (17) appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday, having pleaded guilty to a representative charge of possessing an objectionable publication.
Judge Michael Crosbie said the issue should spark all parents into action.
''The accessibility young people have to this type of material is something that parents ought to discuss with them and be vigilant about,'' he said.
''We all need to have a look at what's going on with our young people in our homes.''
Parcell's offending incorporated 27 images and one video, most of which showed pre-pubescent girls forced into sex acts with adult men.
More than half the files found on his computer fell into the most serious category - depicting penetrative acts, Crown prosecutor Catherine Ure said.
Parcell was outed when Canadian authorities investigated the ''Kik'' online messaging application.
They passed information to New Zealand police and on August 17, they raided the teen's home.
Counsel Anne Stevens said the experience had been a ''sharp jolt'' to the defendant.
''It was an incredible shock for a 17-year-old boy and his mother when investigators turned up at his house,'' she said.
When interviewed, Parcell admitted downloading the offensive material.
He explained he had used the Kik app and internet chat rooms for at least the past year to source the content and admitted he knew it was wrong.
''The fact that a messenger service or application can lead to offending of this type is really troubling and ought to send an alarm back out to parents,'' Judge Crosbie said.
Mrs Stevens told the court Parcell was an only child raised by a single mother and had never had a girlfriend.
''He is not a worldly young man,'' she said.
''A lot of this can be put down to youthful curiosity.''
Letters of reference were provided to the court, one of which was from one of the defendant's former teachers.
They described Parcell as ''quiet, well-mannered and considerate of others ... friendly and courteous''.
The referee believed he had placed himself at risk and made some poor choices.
''That may be the case but these poor choices are part of that exploitation that goes on in a horrible, horrible mean way to those young children,'' the judge said.
''We do know that there are many, many young children in parts of this world, and often not too far away, sexually exploited at a very early stage of life by people who want no more than to ... obtain their own sexual gratification.
''We know when we see the results in terms of those young people that it scars them for life.''
Parcell was sentenced to five months' home detention and 12 months' supervision.