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Crimewatch: Children producing their own pornography

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Austin police are trying to raise awareness about a very disturbing trend, children making their own pornography.

They say they are seeing an explosion of those under 17 taking graphic pictures or recording graphic acts and sharing those images on the internet.

Austin police detective, Joel Pridgeon, solely investigates child porn cases.

"The biggest problem that we are having is child pornography that is being produced by children themselves," said Pridgeon.

Which means adults aren't involved at all, just children.

Police are seeing more teens send graphic images of themselves to other teens. While sexting is against the law, it's only a misdemeanor class C crime and not the main concern for child abuse investigators.

Detective Pridgeon says its where those images end up that worries him. Once it's shared, it's out there and those images get collected.

"I used to never see it. Now I see it constantly, there are entire populations on the suspects hard drive of images and video that was strictly produced by the child as in there is no one else in the room with the child," Pridgeon said. "I've had suspects where that's almost the entirety of their collection so we're actually seeing a fetish now. They just want children that are producing these videos and pictures themselves. It's part of the fantasy that the child is going along with the suspect."

Pridgeon also says there there's an increase in teen porn cases because of the internet and the role it plays in teens' lives. 

"We need to understand now that this behavior has become a part of adolescence growth. Going online and exchanging ideas and exchanging self-awareness with other people has become a way of life for young people. They need that feedback so you need to understand that in some way, your child is going to engage in this kind of behavior. Now whether or not they engage in sexting, whether or not they engage in sending naked photos of themselves and things, that's going to vary from child to child but you need to understand they are at least going to be in that danger zone," Pridgeon said.

That's why it's even more important now to have the security talk with children. Only allow them to use the internet where they can be monitored. Detective Pridgeon says some parents take offense to strict advise.

"You're asking me to spy on my child. I'm asking you to protect your child."

As a father of two young boys, Phil Knudson sets rules.

"My boys have zero access to the internet," said Knudson. "Everything is supervised, everything is password protected because it just doesn't make any sense for them to be some place where they shouldn't be."

Something Austin police wish more parents did. While police say parents should monitor children's internet use at all times, this advice is getting harder to follow.

A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that 78 percent of young people, ages 12 to 17, now have cell phones. Nearly half of those are smartphones, a share that's increasing steadily and that's having a big effect on how, and where, many young people are accessing the web.

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