(WXYZ) — Children across metro Detroit are being warned by law enforcement about the dangers of sexting and sharing explicit pictures through social media platforms or individual text messages.
It might sound nonchalant at first, but sexting can lead to exploitation if the recipient is not your friend anymore or is not the person they claimed to be online.
"Oh yeah, it can be some awkward conversations for sure, and you run that risk whenever you send the picture or video," said 26-year-old St. Clair County Resident Dallas Lashbrook.
Lashbrook agrees that a 'friend today might not be a friend tomorrow.' This saying is also what the police want kids to understand before sending out personal pictures. Because once explicit photos leave your device, you lose control of what happens to those images.
"Kids are getting cellphones at a younger and younger age, so definitely be on top of their social activity," said Lashbrook.
Rochester Police Officer Amy Drehmer says sexting has become more dangerous thanks to social media as criminals can exploit the youth.
Here is what a typical cycle when a victim is targeted looks like:
- Friend requests are sent to young boys through a fake profile.
- Once the request is accepted, sexual images are sent as a trap and the kids are asked to reciprocate.
- When the victim shares his naked images, within minutes, an amount of up to $1000 is demanded, or their pictures are leaked to friends.
- Since the predator has access to the child's friend list, officer Drehmer says in some cases, it's not an empty threat.
"Possessing, soliciting, creating and disturbing those types of pictures is a crime. You can be charged with a crime, and they all face jail time. It's pretty serious because it falls under child pornography," said Drehmer.
In a few weeks, Rochester police have recorded over 10 cases of extortion. Officer Drehmer fears there might be more victims and urges kids to come forward before it's too late.
"Don’t take those pictures, don’t ask for those pictures. If you get a picture - I always tell kids, you know we control what is sent to us, but we can control what we do with it - which is report it to an adult. Report it to the authorities. Delete it," said the Rochester officer.
As for these types of cases, Rochester Police say the usernames and IP addresses are being tracked and if the predators are found to be located outside of Michigan, then the FBI will be involved.