Selfies could lead to 14 years in jail
FACEBOOK, Snapchat, Kik, other mobile phone applications and picture messaging functions are under fire, with the warning teenagers could be jailed for distributing inappropriate images.
After a marked increase in the number of complaints received relating to child exploitation material, Emerald Criminal Investigation Branch officer-in-charge Detective Sergeant Dylan Brook said teenagers needed to be aware of the consequences.
"What kids don't understand is... it is actually an offence to take an inappropriate image of yourself and send it. You're actually creating child exploitation material," Det Sgt Brook said.
Maximum penalties for creating, distributing and possessing child exploitation material go as high as 14 years jail. Det Sgt Brook said after one warning, court action was the next step.
"At the moment we are letting them (teenagers) know that they can be charged," he said.
"So those children that we see, we've given them a caution - but they only get one chance."
Inappropriate images involve any nude or partly-clothed provocative images.
But Dr Nicholas Carah from the University of Queensland said it was time the law caught up with technology.
"The law was written at a time when anyone producing sexual images of children was doing it for one purpose only," Dr Carah said.
"But if young children are producing images of themselves and their audience is their partners, the law needs to catch up."
Psychologist Dr Kylie Burke said instances where personal photos were leaked and ended up on the internet could have lasting effects.
"It affects both immediately and long-term," Dr Burke said.
"These things follow kids around for a very, very long time.
"These things stay on the internet forever."
Dr Burke said educating parents was as important as educating the teenagers.
"We need to be focusing in on the family relationships and assist parents," she said.
"Arm them with the information and skills they need to help their kids understand the implications of what they're doing."
Det Sgt Brook said talks in schools by adopt-a-cops had so far made no impact on children.
"We've tried the educational talk, but we are still seeing complaints coming through," he said.
"The advice... we give kids when we speak to them is that if it is an image that you don't want your mum and dad to see, don't take it and send it - it is that simple."