Racy Pics Of Underage Teens, Possibly From MD, On Instagram
MARYLAND - Maryland State Police are warning parents about nude pictures of underage teens being posted on the media sharing site Instagram, after racy pictures discovered by a parent in Southern Maryland sparked an investigation.
Authorities believe the pictures could be of middle and high school age kids from across the state, including Caroline and Queen Anne's Counties (one profile was called CarolineCountyThots), but under Maryland law, the images are not considered child pornography.
"That is because these photos are only depicting bodyparts. You're not seeing any faces and your not seeing any identifying information," says Elena Russo, spokesperson for Maryland State Police.
Police say what makes the investigation difficult is once Instagram takes the pages down, the user just reposts them under a different name.
They want to use this time to remind parents to keep an eye on what their children doing online, but as technology develops, many are finding it hard to keep up.
Diane Hammond says her eight year-old granddaughter often uses her smartphone and tablet. But becaue Diane admits, she isn't the most tech-savvy, "if [my granddaughter] were doing something on a site she shouldn't be on...I'm not so sure I would know the difference."
Rob Rotar with the Life Crisis Center in Salisbury, which provides assistance to says they often get calls about a "private message gone wrong".
"It's like the the things you see in the Lifetime movies. It's...it's been thrown out there for everybody to see at school and they've...they've kind of been ridiculed for it."
His advice for parents and teens: "communicate with your kids...know what their doing," says the crisis hotline director, and "before you put something out there, before you share something, think twice about it, because it could get into the wrong hands."
Experts say it's important not only for parents and guardians to talk to their children about their online habits, but also become familiar with the digital spaces they occupy.
Police recommend two resources in particular: www.netsmartz.org, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website ncmec.org. Instagram also has an extensive help page.
Anyone with information on who may be behind the profiles in this investigation is urged to contact Maryland State Police at 410-953-8200.
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