LOS ANGELES (CNS/FOX 11) - Decrying a wave of nude selfies being uploaded by kids across America, the Los Angeles county sheriff today sent an open letter warning of the huge risk of kids snapping obscene pictures of their nude bodies.
Obscene selfies "are forever present on the Internet, viewed and traded like baseball cards by child molesters, predators, and extortionists," Sheriff Jim McDonnell wrote in a letter posted today on Facebook and other
social media sites.
"What may have started as a copycat of an online trend is now manifesting itself as a nexus between our teens and the predators who seek to exploit them for profit," he said.
The sheriff warned parents to understand the legal jeopardy for teens sending nude photos over the internet or cellular devices. "Directing someone to make, send, or possess these photos is both a federal and state crime," he said.
The department's Human Trafficking Bureau has investigated 519 episodes of nude pictures of children on the web, with 81 of those cases in the past 73 days, he said.
About a quarter of these criminal cases 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 ..." McDonnell wrote.
Or, he continued, they were duped into taking the nude selfies 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."
The sheriff called on unnamed "high profile individuals" to demonstrate `the importance of setting goals and teaching our children, especially our girls, that they have more to offer than just their bodies.
"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," the sheriff wrote.
"Online forums and websites that market themselves as platforms where these images `disappear' are very misleading; let me be clear; these images never disappear," McDonnell warned.
And he said the consequences for the children can be catastrophic as the nude images are reposted 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."