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'Sexting' students taken offline

LANCE HOLDFORTH, Special to the Examiner

INNISFIL - Some Innisfil high school students got caught in the act when a group of youths got busted with nude photos of other students.

South Simcoe police were called to Nantyr Shores Secondary School on Wednesday when faculty discovered a large group of male and female students were sending naked pictures to each other using the BlackBerry Messenger service (BBM).

"It's a concern and it's something parents need to be aware of and talk to their kids about," Sgt. Lisa Hunt said. "Some young, naive people get talked into doing things, like sending a picture and then they're obviously not knowing it's getting passed around, and it is."

Police say the photos were sent consensually between students, but Hunt said the effects can go far beyond the school's walls.

"Even though they're young, they should think about how things can affect their futures by doing something so permanent that they might regret later," she said. "Once you put something out there, anyone can get anything. Once people post stuff, then it's out there and people can copy these things."

No one was charged, but Hunt said because the students are underage, the graphic nature of the photos could be considered child pornography.

"This is a large incident, very large," Hunt said. "In a school community it's a big problem, but the school is addressing it."

On Friday, Nantyr Shores principal Heather Hamilton declined to comment.

Hunt said the groups were made up of a large population of students who didn't appreciate the consequences of their actions.

"It's the sharing of information on a mass scale," she said. "I'm sure this is not an isolated incident in one school, either."

Police and school faculty have since shut down the groups of 'sexting' students, and are preparing to educate the youths on the dangers of their actions.

Parents need to become more involved in how children use new technology to help them avoid future embarrassment, Hunt said.

"It's something all parents need to be aware of," she said. "If your kid knows you're going to pick up their phone and check it once in a while, they might think twice about getting involved in these things."

Police say they don't believe adults were involved, but because the photos were sent wirelessly, they could be anywhere.

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