A picture’s worth a thousand words…and possible jail time

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A picture’s worth a thousand words…and possible jail time

NOTE: Another great collaborative article between the Thibodaux Police Department and Samantha Morgan at NBC33 Baton Rouge.

THIBODAUX, LA (NBC33) – Love can make even the most mature person do crazy things. Unfortunately, technology has created a growing problem among teens and young adults that can have very serious consequences.

“When dealing with kids, they’re sending pictures to each other because they don’t think about the long-term consequences,” David Melancon, Thibodaux Police Department, explained.

“When young people are in relationships, they think they love that person and they are going to be together forever. But when the breakup happens, the other person ends up with compromising photos of you.”

Although sending sexually explicit photos to a significant other is not a problem specific to teens, it is a unique situation that could lead to criminal charges.

Siren Sexting Sailors, after Edward Armitage

Siren Sexting Sailors, after Edward Armitage

“What many people do not know is that an underage girl can snap a picture of herself and send it to someone who is older, and they can be charged with possession of child pornography,” Melancon noted.

“Being ignorant of the juvenile’s age is not a defense. If the officer can prove the person in the picture is not of age, they can be charged.”

It is important to note the individual who receives the photo does not have to be a legal adult to face charges.   “There have been teenagers who have been charged with possession of child pornography, too,” he added.

“No matter your age, if you have pictures of someone underage, you could be charged criminally.”The person who sent the photo is not free from blame. In fact, the juvenile could face a charge just as damaging.

“If an underage teenager or child sends a naked photo of themselves to someone else, they can be charged with distribution or production of child pornography.”

Texting Harajuku

Unfortunately, the result of sexually compromising photos is more likely to end up in the public eye rather than a courtroom.   “Locally, there was a young girl who sent a naked picture of herself to her boyfriend,” Melancon explained.

“She trusted him and believed he would not send it to anyone else.He didn’t, but his friend got hold of his phone and he blasted it out. Then, the people who got it blasted it out, and it eventually ended up on the phone of someone who was at work.

One of the men working there asked what they were looking at, and when they showed him, it was a picture of his daughter.   “The girl fell victim to something she thought was secure and safe,” he continued.

In this case, the individual who distributed the image did so after gaining direct access to the phone. However, in the digital age, everything stored is subject to possible hackers.

“If you have something you don’t want the world to share, you shouldn’t have it on your phone,” Josh Henderson, a computer expert at Computer Heaven in Baton Rouge, said in a past interview with NBC33.

“You can be in the room with somebody, not using [your phone], but if you do not have a password on your phone, they can get in your files, pictures, text, emails, anything like that.”

Español: Logo WiFi Vectorizado

Wi-Fi helps keep your data plan under control, but it can give access to just about anyone, making it easy for someone to find compromising photos and distribute them online. Once the photo is distributed, there’s a far more dangerous situation possible than embarrassment.

“I have heard cases where people use these photos to get what they want from the other person,” Melancon said.

“I think that’s it’s important for teens and adults to know that when they send a compromising photo out, they are no longer in control of who sees that photo and you’re in turn no longer in control of yourself because it can easily be used against you.”

Blackmail, public humiliation, criminal charges; none of these are things you wish upon yourself, let alone your child, but what can you do about it?   “Educate them on the dangers of what they face and the long-term consequences,” Melancon noted.

“Take a proactive stance in monitoring your child’s activity. The days of putting a computer in the family room are over. Now you have 12-year-olds with smart phones. They can take pictures and post inappropriate things online without you ever knowing it.”

Although the cases presented in this story are extreme, they are not uncommon. Use them as examples to begin a dialogue with your child, and take this as a first step to educating yourself on the dangers of a virtual-based society.   “For parents, this can be very scary,” Melancon concluded.

“Be proactive. Educate yourself. Chances are your kids don’t know everything about the Internet, either.”

This story is part of a series called “The thin blue line separating social from cell block.”

7 replies »

  1. Chief, I love this series. The 2 older kids are just starting their teenage years, and we’ve been talking to them about social media etc (particularly the story of the teenager in Austin, Texas, who has spent 9 months in solitary in jail for making a harmless, but off-color, comment in his gaming community. The world is a different place for kids today, and I think the police-dad perspective on staying out of trouble is a fantastic idea!!!


  2. Thanks LBD. We placed a youtube video of our social media awareness presentation on our Thibodaux Police Department webpage.
    Its not the same without live explanation, but does give powerful examples of abuses and victimizations our kids face.

  3. Reblogged this on Samina's Forum for police support and commented:
    This article deals with the issues which effect us all in our everyday life. The lack of knowledge can have devastating consequences for us . It is a must read for all parents and children. All thanks to honorable Chief Silverii for posting such articles on current issues which educate us about the lurking dangers for our children. Samina

  4. Fantastic discussion of HOW these types of photos get leaked out–that is the thing that teenagers and young adults don’t “get” when they do these things.

    The laws are fairly good pertaining to protection of children from images of themselves, though in practice they still need to know how to prevent the harm. When it comes to anyone over the age of majority, however, the law is painfully lacking and seriously needs to be addressed in this digital era when phones and things are packed into changerooms, bathrooms, people’s bedrooms, etc. Young people over the age of majority (or anyone, really) can have their lives completely ruined by compromising images, and there is little to deter the perpetrators or bring them to justice.

    • Nothing makes law enforcement feel more helpless than a parent asking your help to have their child’s picture “deleted” from the Internet.
      They are a permanent digital record. Of course, even adults subject themselves.

      • Some “adults” don’t subject themselves, and still end up on there. It really is horrible, and they are still someone’s children even when they are over the cut-off age. So much more needs to be done.


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