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Sheriff Warns Parents About The Dangers Of Teens And 'Nude Selfies'

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L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell wrote an open letter on behalf of his department in which he connected "the horrific nature and the sheer number of human trafficking cases that involve children and young teens" with the prevalence of these adolescents taking nude selfies and sharing them on the internet. The letter can be seen in its entirety on Facebook.McDonnell cited some disturbing statistics in the post: in 2015 alone, the Los Angeles Regional Task Force on Human Trafficking investigated 519 cases that involved nude photos of adolescents, some of which included girls and boys as young as 8 years old. He continued:

These photos are forever circulating in cyberspace. Of these cases, one in four photos involved young teenage girls and boys who had taken nude "selfies," perhaps as an "act of love" for a boyfriend or girlfriend, an act of teenage rebellion, a cry for attention, or did so because they were duped by someone posing as a friend or teenage acquaintance. All too often, these images end up on the internet or in the hands of child predators, some of whom actually make contact with these children with specific intent of luring them into a relationship, extorting them for additional photos and videos, or in some cases, even money. These cases slice across all socio-economic and racial lines.

According to McDonnell, in the first two and half months of 2016, the Sheriff Department's Human Trafficking Bureau (HTB) have already investigated 81 cases, and that the photographs and videos that are part of these cases number in the thousands. He said any websites or apps that say images "disappear" after a certain amount of time are not being honest.

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Let me be clear; these images NEVER disappear. They are forever present on the internet, viewed and traded like baseball cards by child molesters, predators, and extortionists, many of whom re-post these nude images on file sharing sites, exponentially exposing these inappropriate and illegal images of a young girl or boy. Afterward, our young victims often fall into deep depression and have suicidal feelings which stay with them for a lifetime.

Then McDonnell makes the point that "high profile individuals" should be setting good examples.

Our youth need public figures and parents to work together and provide information to our families about the high-risk consequences of inappropriate photo sharing. We need and want to partner with high profiles individuals whose form of self-expression is not blatantly a form of commerce, but a demonstration of the importance of setting goals and teaching our children, but especially our girls, that they have more to offer than just their bodies.

Perhaps this was some not-so-subtle shade thrown towards Kim Kardashian?

Even for consenting, non-celebrity adults, nude selfies can get into the wrong hands and wreak havoc. In 2014, a Pasadena high school teacher was hacked, and his nude photos were sent to over 200 people.

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But unlike for adults, teenagers (and their parents, for that matter) can face serious legal repercussions for taking and sending nude photos, as McDonnell notes:

Directing someone to make, send, or possess these photos is both a federal and state crime. Every day, our Human Trafficking Bureau sees the tragic realization for parents who learn of their child mimicking what they see in the media, or buying into the myth that their online accounts are truly private, truly secure, that they can control the access of the increasingly sophisticated criminal enterprises who hunt for their next victims on the very platforms parents may believe are just for fun.

McDonnell closed out the post by urging parents to learn more about the consequences of sexting. Last year, LAUSD introduced the "Now Matters Later" campaign, which is designed to stop teens from sexting.