Newport News Police: “Sexting” among teens, preteens on the rise

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Police in Newport News are warning parents to keep an eye on what their kids are sharing from their smartphones.

Between 2012 and 2016, the Newport News Police Department says it received 67 reports of Obscene Material/Pornography, many of which involved juveniles in middle and high school.

“It’s an ongoing, increasing kind of a problem and it is a crime," said Lou Thurston, Public Information Officer for the Newport News Police Department. “There’s probably a ton more that go unreported.”

Sexting is the sending or receiving of explicit images using a cell phone or the internet. According to police, it usually occurs between two or three people, but there are times images can be shared over and over going viral.

According to a 2011 study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 7.1% of youth surveyed reported received nude or nearly nude images of others with 5.9% reporting receiving sexually explicit photos. Females were more likely to appear in and create these images.

Thurston says juveniles who engage in "sexting" can be charged with the creation, possession and distribution of child pornography.

“Are we going to prosecute 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14-year-old person…well probably not," said Thurston. “Just trying to keep people safe because you never know where this stuff is going to wind up.”

Police advise parents to 'micro-control' their children's cell phone use to keep track of what's being sent and received. Thurston says minors shouldn't have an expectation of privacy.

“It’s time for parents to talk to their children and to let them know that, 'yes, I’m going to be checking your bedroom. Yes, I’m going to be looking through your phone'."