Officials warn kids about child porn charges in underage sexting

Officials warn kids about child porn charges in underage sexting cases

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"We are seeing as young as 12, 13, 14-year-old kids," said Detective Smith. "We are seeing as young as 12, 13, 14-year-old kids," said Detective Smith.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

LOUDON (WATE) - After an incident at a local middle school, officials are warning kids and parents that sexting between underage teens could lead to charges and even jail time.

On Friday, Loudon County officials found naked photos of a seventh grader on a student's phone at a local middle school.

The incident is still under investigation, but officials warn this type of behavior could cause students to be charged with child porn.

Detective Jason Smith with the Loudon County Sheriff's Department is seeing more and more cases where students are sexting. Officials said it has been a problem for law enforcement across East Tennessee.

"They're sending nude photos, sexually explicit photos. We are seeing as young as 12, 13, 14-year-old kids. [It's] common in middle school and even more common in high school," said Detective Smith.

Smith said the photos are often discovered when phones are confiscated at school. The detective asked a local 7th grader how many students were sexting.

"She said it's the majority of girls I know have sent pictures to their boyfriend or to people who have requested them," said Smith.

Smith said many students have camera phones and unlimited texts and aren't knowledgeable about the long term impact of their actions.

He said once the picture is online, it's permanent. A future employer could see it, but also the pain of the permanent photo has led to suicides in other states.

"They were humiliated, ashamed. Where they broke up, they've got that emotional problem. Now you've got their photo, the boyfriend gets mad and shows the photo to all of his friends," said Smith.

Not only can it create shame for students, it's illegal. The detective said an underage student can face serious charges.

"Once you send your photo out to that person, that person is now in possession of child pornography," said Smith. "If you're underage and that person sends it out then it's distribution of child pornography."

Detective Smith said parents need to make sure their kids know that sexting is illegal and he recommends checking their child's phone often.

The detective also said to avoid teen and preteen sexting, parents can choose to buy a phone that does not have a camera or they can get a monitoring device that will track everything done on the cell phone.

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