Sioux Falls, SD The Minnehaha County Sheriff’s department is issuing a warning for all parents and teens after a Baltic High School graduate is now facing child porn and rape charges for what started as an exchange of nude photos.
Law enforcement say they're investigating a lot of cases of nude photos being used for blackmail or other forms of control.
Captain Jason Gearman with the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Department says it's not just teens, many adults are also guilty of these crimes. But Gearman says it is something every parent needs to be aware of, perhaps even earlier than many people might think.
“We get issues as young as sixth grade, then of course it multiplies as you get up to seventh and eighth grade,” Memorial Middle School counselor John Hegg said.
Hegg says he constantly sees young students dealing with issues that involve sexting.
“Threaten the other person: I’m going to do something to you if you don't share your pictures, and the kids have such a difficult time understanding the consequence of what they're doing, so they go ahead. ‘I don't want those rumors spread about me’ so they go ahead and take a picture and send it to him,” Hegg said.
Hegg says teens are particularly susceptible to this kind of lapse in judgement.
“Part of the brain that is not developed in an adolescent and in middle school is the part that can understand the future,” Hegg said. “They think more of just today, what’s going on today, that's the most important.”
But Captain Gearman says teens are not the only people sending and using nude pictures for control.
“We have cases where they want money because of pictures and threaten to send it to everyone on Facebook and their family. Also, snap chat saves and have to be aware of that,” Gearman said.
He says part of that awareness is checking your child's cell phone.
“If you are paying for the phone, you have access to it,” Gearman said. “So just be aware what your kid is doing on social media and on a cellphone.”
Hegg says parents should outline their rights in a contract with their teen before they ever start using a cellphone.
“Give kids a heads up that as a parent, I have a right to research and review what you're doing, so the kid knows that is a possibility,” Hegg said.
Hegg says that contract should also spell out the consequences if a parent does find that their child is using their cellphone inappropriately.
Police say it's important to help teens, and even adults, realize the serious possible consequences of sending nude photos. They say you never know where those photos may end up down the road.