Canadian County Cracks Down On Teen Sexting
CANADIAN COUNTY, Oklahoma - The Canadian County Sheriff's Office is issuing a warning to parents about the growing trend of sexting among children and teens.
The agency has investigated five cases involving five or more children already this year. Schools in El Reno, Mustang, Piedmont and Yukon have all been involved in sexting investigations. Most of the schools involved were middle schools.
"It's normal to be curious, but this is not the way to do it," says Capt. Adam Flowers. "It's extremely dangerous."
Some of the photo trading groups investigated were created for fun while others were used for bullying and humiliation, but Flowers says they all divulge knowledge of a world no child should see.
"It's hard core pornography that these kids are engaging in," says Flowers, "and I blame some of that because of the access they have to pornography on the Internet."
Flowers says adult content seems to have become the norm for kids at a much younger age than you might think.
He notes, "I've worked sexting rings, hard core graphic sexting rings, as young as fifth grade, and that involved up to 12 kids sending videos and photos back and forth."
School administrators notice when confronting their students that many are unaware of the crimes they are committing, and the fact that public groups may invite malicious adults who can blackmail and haunt them for the rest of their lives.
"The student doesn't think it's bad. They just think it's the thing to do now, and that's what's sad," says Arryn Small, assistant principal at Etta Dale Junior High in El Reno.
The school districts work with deputies to host periodic education sessions for both students and parents, showing adults new apps kids use and how to clone their child's phone to monitor activity.
Mustang was the first district in the state to enact a policy allowing administrators to search students' cellphones when they have suspicions.
"With today’s technology, sexting is something every school should be concerned with. When our administrators receive a report of inappropriate behavior involving cellphones or other technology, our staff acts quickly to investigate, which begins with a conversation with the students involved," says district spokesperson Shannon Rigsby.
Deputies say charging students with child pornography is a last resort. The district attorney will first order them to do community service or after-school programs to keep them busy and learn from their mistakes, but parents may still face lawsuits from the victims' families.
Flowers says it is imperative for parents to be aware.
"They need to know who their kids are talking to," he says. "Kids, if they have this, they need to know that at any time a parent can take that phone and look at it."
Now especially, as kids get out of school for the summer, the sheriff's office urges parents to get them involved in activities to break the boredom that leads to these dangerous behaviors.
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