A Click Away: What to do to protect your child

The SEMO Cyber Crimes Task Force explains how parents can protect their children from self-made child pornography cases.
Updated: May. 18, 2022 at 5:50 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Under Missouri law, a juvenile referral or charges in adult court can be just a click away if the case involves child pornography.

And as we now know, that includes a picture or video a young person willingly takes of themselves.

We had the chance to meet back up with the sole member of the SEMO Cyber Crimes Task Force on Wednesday afternoon, May 18 in Cape Girardeau as he worked more than a dozen active child pornography cases in our region.

“I’ve received a couple of calls as of this morning. Parents are wondering what to do,” he said.

Detective Danny Hicks said the first step is simple. You should know what’s on your child’s cellphone or laptop.

“Make sure that we’re sharing pin codes and passcodes,” he explained. “There’s no privacy at a juvenile’s age.”

Hicks said if an image is found, there’s a couple ways a parent can handle it.

“What I would recommend is to reach out to local law enforcement,” he continued. “Or reach out to me personally at the Poplar Bluff Police Department. Each individual situation will be different. But we can handle it appropriately. And I don’t want parents to fear that they can’t contact police when they run into this.”

We asked if there was a way to know if a child’s image is out there, has been shared and is accessible by anyone.

“Just a general answer. No,” he replied. “If there’s been a report of it that I know of, I can answer that. But just a parent’s curious about if their kids have done it in the past, if it’s just floating around? There’s no way of me knowing.”

And as we’ve reported, Hicks is a task force of one. He’s hoping attention to this issue also highlights the need to support the work he’s doing.

“Across the state, we’re seeing a huge increase of cyber tip reports which include child pornography. Possession. That sort of thing. It would be an amazing asset if we could have more individuals trained in ICAC investigations to help alleviate some of the caseload,” he said.

We talked to Poplar Bluff Police Chief Danny Whiteley about the need for more resources.

He said he’s spoken to both the state DPS director and State Senator Jason Bean about what he calls a funding problem that is putting our children in danger.

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