Sexting: A growing problem among teens and pre-teens

Juvenile Officer, Diedra Ashley
Juvenile Officer, Diedra Ashley

KENNETT, MO (KFVS) - Unbelievable, but true.  Juvenile officers in New Madrid County say kids are taking naked and graphic pictures and video with cell phones and sending them to each other or posting them on chat sites.  Kids, as young as ten.

Officers say kids don't realize it's a crime, and there are consequences in a digital world where that kind of material never goes away.

"The pictures are very graphic," said Juvenile Officer, Diedra Ashley. "I was shocked to see those pictures among kids that are so young."

The problem came to Ashley's attention through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.  The organization monitors pornographic material on certain chat sites.

From there they traced some of the videos and pictures back to devices that belong to children in New Madrid County.

"This was a computer used by a juvenile on a website called my," said Ashley.  "A girl posted a particular video on a chat site and unfortunately she did not have her clothes on when she was doing that."

Ashley says now, there are no more warnings and zero tolerance.  If you get caught you're going to face charges. Ashley says at least five children are in trouble.

Frustrated, Ashley went into schools with the highway patrol to stress consequences that never disappear in a cyber world.

"We try to stress yes you're a kid but what are you going to do when theses pictures pop back up? What are you going to tell you're potential employer or your own kids?"

Heartland News took the issue to parents in New Madrid County.

"It's not hard to tell them right from wrong, just have to tell them and hope for the best," said Cara Ellison.

They admit it's hard to keep up with what you're kids are doing online.

"I don't know what he's doing," said Tina O'Dell.  O'Dell told us she can't check her 16 year old son's page because he won't hand over his passwords.  "Nope," she said. "He won't give it" to me.

Ashley says to make a real impact, parents need to demand passwords.  And be more proactive.

"Go through their pages and look at their messages," said Ashley.  "Your child's going to think it's not fair but it is your job to keep them safe."

Ashley says the students don't seem to know why they are doing it, and their parents were shocked and devastated.

Meanwhile, Heartland News discovered that New Madrid County schools are some of many in the Heartland facing some kind of sexting problem.

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