Brown County Attorney Chuck Hanson had a cautionary message for parents during a presentation at the Event Center on Wednesday evening, Nov. 28. “Be vigilant,” he said. “Check their phones.”

Brown County Attorney Chuck Hanson had a cautionary message for parents during a presentation at the Event Center on Wednesday evening, Nov. 28. “Be vigilant,” he said. “Check their phones.”

Hanson was introduced by Sleepy Eye Police Officer Shawn Bohnen who said he organized the event because of the increase the department has seen in sexting incidents involving local teens. Bohnen said in 2014 there was one case and they’ve worked with four cases each year since.

What is sexting? Hanson’s short definition is: the sending of a sexually suggestive text message via mobile devices (cell phones, computers, etc.) More specifically, Hanson said it mostly involves the sending of nude photos. Bohnen and Hanson explained the incidents may involve a large group of kids as a photo is shared among peers.

Bohnen said kids don’t realize it is illegal, a felony actually, and that parents think their kids wouldn’t do it. That’s another reason for the parent presentation last week. Last school year, Hanson spoke about the topic at both local high schools and knew that parents also needed to be informed.

Hanson explained that sending nude photos of a person under the age of 18 is considered dissemination of pornographic work involving a minor — and is a felony. Keeping the photos on a phone is possession of child pornography.

Bohnen and Hanson agreed girls are generally the victims, and have been pressured by guys to send them a nude photo. Some youth may receive such photos as they are shared in a widening circle of peers.

Hanson said kids who are pressured to send nude photos should tell their parents, and tell the person to stop contacting them or they will call the police. He said kids should be advised to “think before they post” because they can never get that photo or message back and it will likely be shared all over. They should also understand that anything they send or post will never truly go away.

Hanson warned that adult predators pose as teens online, ask young people for photos and also attempt to arrange meetings. His advice for youth and adults: if you are communicating with someone you met online, they might not be who you think they are.

Hanson also spoke about online bullying. “Kids can’t get away from it, it follows them home and into their room,” he said, referring to the constant connection many kids have with their phones. He said bullying is considered disorderly conduct with legal consequences ranging from petty misdemeanor to more serious delinquency charges for repeated behavior.