Date: January 31, 2012
S.A.F.E. (Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement) Joint Media Release
Contact: Dayna Straehley
EDUCATION: SPEAKER WARNS PARENTS ABOUT SEXUAL PREDATORS
Children or teens who send emails or text messages with naked photos of themselves could be charged with distributing child pornography, a felony, an investigator says.
Heidi Chebahtah, senior investigator with the Riverside County district attorney’s office and part of the Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Task Force, was one of the speakers Saturday for the Parent Mini Conference at Stallings Elementary School in Corona.
Chebahtah’s topic was Internet safety and sexual predators.
At the end of her hour-long talk, she passed out copies of software parents can use to monitor their children’s Internet use.
Chebahtah said prosecutors don’t press charges against every teen found “sexting,” or sending text messages with naked photos of himself or herself to a same-age boyfriend or girlfriend.
They do prosecute cases in which children or teens forwarded such photos as cyberbullying or with intent to harm or harass, she said.
If parents find such photos on their child’s phone or computer, they should ask their child if they know the sender and tell the other parent. They should not forward, or distribute, the child pornography to the other parent, a principal or even a police officer, Chebahtah said.
Teens often send such pictures of themselves to a boyfriend or girlfriend. In one case a few years ago, a boyfriend forwarded his ex-girlfriend’s pictures to everyone he knew after they broke up and the girl was driven to suicide, Chebahtah said.
She warned parents of sexual predators pretending to be someone their child’s own age.
“You don’t know who’s watching on the other end,” Chebahtah said. “These predators are never who they claim to be.”
She said 29 percent of fifth- through 12th-graders admitted to chatting online with someone they had never met face-to-face. Many parents check cellphones and watch what their children do on the Internet. But she said parents don’t see the bill when children and teens chat through apps they download for the iPod Touch, an Internet-based version of the music player. The Kindle Fire e-book reader also accesses the Internet, Chebahtah said.
She works with a task force that the county formed after a 2006 “Dateline NBC” Internet predator sting resulted in the arrests of 51 men at a Mira Loma decoy house. Authorities said the men came went there because they believed they would have sex with a 12-year-old girl.