CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Chesterfield Police say they're seeing an increase in sextortion cases involving children, specifically teenage boys.
The Pew Research Center found that 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, up from 73% in 2014.
The increase in technology is also giving kids access to connect with anyone on social media, which is a problem according to Chesterfield Police as they say they are seeing more kids than ever fall victim to sextortion.
"It's night and day," WIndfred Lewis, a sergeant with Chesterfield Police's Special Victims Unit said.
Sextortion happens when a person reaches out on a fake profile and requests naked pictures from kids. After the child sends an explicit image, the person behind the profile sends a message back saying if they don't send them money, they will release the picture to the child's followers.
"It's not uncommon for me to see three or four reports in a week," Lewis said. "We hear from resource officers because the juvenile has come and confided in them or the parents are making the reports."
Through their investigations, Chesterfield Police have determined these predators are located across the world. They say they are especially targeting teenage boys.
"These predators are preying on the vulnerability and embarrassment and predicament these kids are feeling when they feel like they've done something wrong and don't think they have anywhere to turn," Lewis said.
Chesterfield Police along with child psychologist Dr. Anjali Ferguson said parents need to have conversations with their kids about what is happening online.
"Much like we have in-person conversations about stranger danger, we need to be doing the same thing with children about online spaces," Ferguson said.
She said this starts with asking children direct questions.
"It's okay to be really explicit about what is happening, you you are talking with, are these people you know, are these people you don't know," Ferguson said.
Ferguson said parents need to monitor children's behavior to determine if changes occur. If they do, she said something may be up and that's when it's important to create an environment where they feel they can share.
"Monitor your emotions and allow your child to disclose what is happening without you offering any major input in the interim," Ferguson said. "You need to make sure you lay a foundation at home that you are safe and you are a welcoming space for a dialogue that is non-judgmental."
Ferguson said parents can also consider limiting children's time on devices, using them in public spaces outside the house cand laying out expectations that they are going to check their child's devices.