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Sheriff warns of teens sharing inappropriate photos online

Posted: August 5, 2014 4:49 p.m.
Updated: August 6, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews is warning parents to be aware of their children’s online activities, as photos of nude or semi-nude adolescents are being posted on the internet, then widely distributed. Matthews posted the following warning on the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Facebook page on Monday, under a headline that read “VERY IMPORTANT PARENTS BEWARE!!!”

“There is a new problem that has surfaced involving the posting of pictures of scantily clad or nude young girls on an internet site. In some cases, a nude photo of a young girl is posted and a name, not necessarily the correct name, is assigned to the photo. Frequently, the name of a Kershaw County female student is posted along with the photo which is not always a photo of that student. HOWEVER, in some cases it is and the photo is disseminated all over cyberspace. The Kershaw County Sheriff's Office has received complaints about this and is working on this situation in conjunction with the SC Attorney General's Office.

“Parents MUST monitor the internet activities of their children. Teenage girls who take inappropriate pictures of themselves and send them to a boyfriend have been victimized by this. Boyfriend today, gone tomorrow. Pictures can be taken and transmitted by cell phone. The pictures are sent all over the internet for anyone to see. Doing this violates child pornography laws whether done by the girl herself, or boyfriend.

“Parents please talk with your teenagers about this. They are opening themselves up for serious problems if they engage in this type of activity.”

In an exclusive interview with the Chronicle-Independent, Matthews said monitoring internet use is harder than ever, thanks to the portable devices available for online access.

“The problem is parents used to be able to monitor internet use because the computer was in the house Now kids have a computer in their back pocket, like an iPhone,” Matthews said, adding that girls often trust the person they initially take the photo for. “He’s the boyfriend today but next week he’s not a boyfriend and he gives it to his buddies and it goes all over the internet.”

As he said on Facebook, Matthews urges parents to talk openly with their adolescents about the seriousness of electronically sharing compromising photos.

“The best advice to parents is to have a talk with teenage children, especially daughters, and monitor the use of their phones,” he said. “It’s a stupid action taken by immature young people who do not understand the long-term consequences. They end up on websites that are totally perverted along with comments you can’t even print in the paper.”

Matthews also reiterated that nude photos of minors are illegal, regardless of their origin.

“A picture of an underage person is considered child pornography, no matter who took it or is distributing it. It’s disturbing to the parents and to the child when they see this,” he said, adding that the relative anonymity the internet provides makes tracking down guilty parties all the more challenging.

“It’s very difficult to stop. We’re currently working on a situation here in Kershaw County and the attorney general’s office is helping us with it. They have a Computer Crimes division,” he said. “We’re doing what we can. It wouldn’t be happening if the pictures of these young girls weren’t getting out there. This is a real time-consuming issue.”

Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan “shared” Matthews’ Facebook post and added a comment of his own.

“I appreciate the sheriff speaking to this,” Morgan wrote. “It was a lot easier for parents to monitor Internet activities when the device sat on a table. It's more difficult now because the device can be carried in a back pocket...I hope families can talk about this issue.”

The district is cooperating with the KCSO in battling the problem, but KCSD Director of Communications Mary Ann Byrd said it has not been determined any illegal acts have taken place on school property.

The district has a policy regarding the use of cell phones and similar devices, which they generally refer to as “paging devices.” The policy is available on the district’s website. It says, in part:

• Paging devices must be turned off in schools or on school grounds before the start of the school day or during the school day until the dismissal of school.

• Paging devices must be turned off en route to and from school on school buses.

• Paging devices are allowed in school and on school grounds after the conclusion of the regular school day.

• Students are to store paging devices out of sight and in pockets, bags, backpacks, purses, etc.

The policy also spells out the consequences for breaking the rules, with confiscation of the device among them and the period of time before the device is returned growing with repeated violations.


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