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Police warn parents about WhatsApp group targeting kids with graphic content

A WhatsApp group called 3tuntimerkinnät that's popular with kids has been sharing violent and pornographic images, according to Finnish police.

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Image: Ritchie B. Tongo / EPA

A WhatsApp group called "3tuntimerkinnät" that’s popular with hundreds of children in Finland has been sharing disturbing and illegal pictures, along with indecent images of children. Police made the information public on their Facebook page.

Detective Chief Inspector Sakari Tuominen from the Central Finland Police Department says that a tip-off about the group came from the Tampere Police.

"The police received information about the group, which has been sharing pictures and videos that are very violent and pornographic," says Tuominen. Children in the group have been between the ages of 9 and 13 years old.

3tuntimerkkinät is a reference to the a system in Wilma, an app widely used in Finnish schools for managing school to home communications. The term "tuntimerkintä" references a tool that teachers use to make notes about students' absences from class as well as their behaviour or performance in class. For older students three notifications of unauthorised absence from class usually means serious consequences such as a failing grade in the course in question.

Up to 250 children in the group at a time

It’s been possible to join the WhatsApp group through a link advertised on Instagram. There have been up to 250 members in the group from different parts of Finland.

According to Tuominen, the open WhatsApp group in question "3tuntimerkinnät" has been advertised via links from a Tuntimerkinnät-Instagram account that has 32,000 followers. The link from Instagram to WhatsApp has since been removed, Tuominen says.

"We know who the group administrator is," Tuominen notes, adding that the individual in question is underage.

Consequences may be serious

Several complaints of spreading indecent images via the WhatsApp group in question have been filed with police.

Police are encouraging parents to talk seriously with children and youth about what they view on social media, instant messaging, and the internet and how they share that information.

"Parents need to monitor what their children are doing on social media. This is not the only group like this," Tuominen says.

Police also recommend that parents and guardians underline the fact that sharing certain types of images may have serious criminal consequences.

According to criminal law, spreading indecent images is punishable by up to two years of imprisonment.

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