SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – There is a good chance your child or one of their friends is sending nude photos to other people using a cell phone.
It's called "sexting", something all parents should be concerned about because it can ruin lives.
There are dirty images all over the internet, many featuring underage teens in sexual poses. Unfortunately, kids right here in the Ark-La-Tex are taking the pictures themselves.
"Kids are trying to so hard to keep it secret. They don't want to say anything about it. They're so private about it until it gets out," said 14-year-old Chelsea Perry.
According to one report, one in five American kids between the ages of 11 and 18 admit doing it.
"You have all that stress with high school and you're worried about guys liking you and you just want to reach out, you want to go to somebody who can really understand you," said Perry.
Digital cameras, webcams and social networking are just some of the tools these kids are using, but newer cell phones have created a monster.
"We've sat in this room, and a lot of tears have been shed in this room over what their children do on the internet or with their cell phones," said Lt. Shelley Anderson with the Bossier City Marshal's Office.
Lieutenant Anderson serves on the North Louisiana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The task force handles five 'sexting' cases a week, and the growing number is disturbing because teens don't realize they are victimizing themselves when they snap filthy images.
"How many people is that person going to send the picture to? Then is that picture going to get in an adult's hand who is going to use that in a bad way?" said Lt. Anderson.
A common misconception the task force deals with, especially among younger kids, is people think once they delete the image, it's gone, but that's totally untrue. Before they think to do that, it takes literally three seconds for someone to copy that image and put it in a folder on their own system. That image can then spread like wildfire.
Lieutenant Anderson says kids can get so wrapped up in 'sexting' it can transform their lives before they know it.
"They don't care anymore if they go to school. They don't care if they get paid to have sex. They don't care," said Lt. Anderson.
And it's not just the teenager's life that can be ruined.
Parents are definitely at risk, even those that are overprotective and don't let their children have their own phone.
"Your daughter takes the pictures; the pictures stay on your phone. Let's say you get pulled over for something and you give consent to search your phone because you don't think anything is on there. Bam. We find the pictures, how do you explain that?" said Lt. Anderson.
The North Louisiana Internet Crimes Task Force makes more than 100 presentations to school and church groups every year. The task force says the kids listen because the officers and deputies on the task force break it down to their level.
They've gone through countless hours of computer training, and more important, they sharpen their skills with the help of kids themselves.
13-year-old Kadarius Thomas learned a lot from a recent presentation at his school in Benton, Louisiana.
"Once you get it out there, you can't get it back, the damage is done," said Thomas.
The next time you think about snapping a crude picture, remember you are ultimately taking big risks.
"Just meaningless things you send out, you can be filed as a sex offender for the rest of your life," added Thomas.
The task force wants to silence 'sexting' so they can focus on locking up sexual predators who take advantage of children.
They need kids to realize they are their own worst enemy with 'sexting.'
For more information, you can call the
Bossier Marshals for Kids/North Louisiana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force: (318) 741-8888.
You can also visit the website www.marshalsforkids.com.