HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — With more children online these days, Howard County police want people to watch out for online predators.

Since February, police have received 10 incidents involving minors being asked to send sexually explicit photos. Some of those incidents involved sextortion.

“Those offenders are then threatening to disclose those photographs to daily and friends and posting them on social media if the young person doesn’t pay money,” the Howard County Police Department’s Sherry Llewellyn said.

Maryland State Police Warn Parents, Children About Increase In Sex Exploitation Cases Online

In one case, the victim was a nine-year-old child. The cases remain under investigation; so far, police have not identified any suspects.

Police are asking parents to talk to their children.

“Once they are posted by another user, they will live online forever and that’s not something we want to see happen to our kids,” Llewellyn said.

The warning signs include anyone who invites the child into a private chat or asks for photos or videos. Police said the offender will usually pose as another child or teen.

“What we’re finding in a lot of these cases is that a new friend will approach a young person and encourage them to take explicit photos or videos of themselves,” Llewellyn said.

Parents can remind their children to never share pictures or videos. Police added parents should try to monitor the computer and cell phone apps their children are using.

Baltimore County resident Kristen Morris called the cases “extremely disturbing.”

“As a parent, you have no idea who these people are so it has become a regular conversation,” she said.

Baltimore resident Shaniqua Harvin said they show the importance of keeping tabs on childrens’ online activities.

“Parents may not know nothing but that’s why I say you just basically gotta keep tabs on your kids,” she said.

If you suspect your child has been the victim of sextortion or child pornography, or uncover anything suggesting they may have been targeted for something similar, contact the Howard County Police Department at 410-313-2200. For more information and resources, contact The Listening Place: Howard County Child Advocacy Center at 410-313-2630.

This story was originally published on December 3, 2020.

Stetson Miller