The Anne Arundel County Police Department has received several complaints involving partially nude, nude, or sexually explicit photographs of juveniles being posted on Social Networking websites, such as Instagram.
These images have been posted on several different pages on the Instagram website and in each posting an Anne Arundel County High School is referenced.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department aggressively investigates allegations of child pornography and is a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, working in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Maryland State Police, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
At this point, the investigation into these recent reports has found that most of the images do not rise to the level of child pornography under Maryland law; however we would like to urge the public to be aware of these issues and to report occurrences to Instagram’s Help Center at http://help.instagram.com or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Cyber Tip Line at http://www.cybertipline.com .
Additionally, the Anne Arundel County Police Department is recommending parents speak with their children and explain to them the possible repercussions and dangers of taking photographs of themselves in a partially nude, nude, or sexually explicit manner then posting on the Internet.
Explain that it is never acceptable. As soon as you hand your child a digital device, be it a phone or a tablet or a computer, you should begin the discussion that sending or receiving inappropriate pictures is never okay, nor is sending explicit sexual messages.
Discuss that it is not funny and can get them into a lot of trouble. Producing, transmitting, sharing, or possessing sexually explicit images of a minor, even of themselves is a violation of the law and could result in child pornography charges and being required to register as a sexual offender.
- Additionally, it is a criminal violation to use social media, text, or email to maliciously harass, alarm, or annoy someone.
- Remind children that messages that get sent can be seen by anyone and can’t be taken back.
- The following websites are a good resource for parents to visit take to help protect children from being exploited on the Internet; www.netsmartz.org or www.ncmec.org.
What else can parents do?
- Minimize temptations.
- Discuss the news.
- Again, from day one with a digital device, make it clear to your child that having that device is a privilege and not a right.
- Along with that privilege, your child should be aware that you have the right and responsibility to monitor your child’s activities on the device.
- You should always know the passcodes to all of their devices.
- Parental controls and applications are available to help monitor their children’s phone and internet usage.
- A lot of sexting occurs under peer pressure when groups of kids are together.
- Collecting cell phones at parties or at sleepovers and so forth may help.
- There is no shortage of incidents involving teens and sexting in the news, as well as news about the negative consequences that resulted.
- Bring these evens to your child’s attention and discuss.
- Discuss these issues with the school and other parents.
- Schools can do workshops for both parents and kids.
- Other parents sometimes have advice or experiences to share that can be helpful.
- Kids are way more tech-savvy than their parents.
- Take the time to learn about the sites they are using and how they work.
- It may actually be a great way to spend time with your child because most kids get pretty excited to teach adults how to navigate the digital world.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department is focused on educating the public regarding the dangers and consequences of sexting. We hope these suggestions will provide the appropriate guidance needed for addressing these issues with your children.
 Annotated Code of Maryland; Criminal Law Article; Title 11-207 (Child Pornography); and Title 11-208 (Possession of visual representation of child under 16 engaged in certain sexual acts).
 Annotated Code of Maryland; Criminal Law Article; Title 3-805 (Misuse of electronic communication or interactive computer service).