LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell is warning parents about the vulnerability of children and young teens who take nude selfies and post them online.
McDonnell said predators and pedophiles search the Internet for those photos and use them for exploitation and extortion.
"What may have started as a copycat online trend is now manifesting itself as a nexus between our teens and the predators who seek to exploit them for profit," McDonnell wrote in an open letter to parents.
He said that while kids may think the photo may only be shared privately with one person, they can often end up in the wrong hands. Those that obtain the photos may try to force the teen to pay to not share them with others.
The photos can also help establish a connection that could eventually lead to sex trafficking, he said.
"They open themselves up to being influenced to meet somebody somewhere and ultimately become involved in the sex trafficking trade," McDonnell said at a news conference last week. "Very scary. Know what your kids are doing."
L.A. sheriff warns parents of predators using kids' nude selfies