(RICHMOND, Va.) — Deputies are conducting a major investigation into a teenage “sexting” scandal in Virginia involving more than 100 teens and more than 1,000 photos of underage girls posted to a social media account.
The investigation, involving both middle and high schoolers across six counties, began when a mother reported suspicious activity on her daughter’s Instagram account to a school in late March, authorities said.
“Some guys made up an Instagram page, and they got naked pictures from all these girls, and they started posting them on the Instagram page,” Kayla McNutt, a student at Louisa County High School told ABC News affiliate WRIC-TV in Richmond, Va.
“I’ve seen the page, and there are like 13 naked girls on there,” McNutt said.
More than 1,000 Instagram photographs and some videos of naked teens were posted to the account, leading the sheriff’s office to take swift action in taking the account offline, with the help of Instagram.
While many of the photos on the account were explicit, all of them appeared to be consensual, the Louisa County chief deputy said. The ages of the teens ranged from about 14 to 17 years.
Deputies also confiscated 25 cell phones from teens who they said either received or accessed the pictures.
McNutt is among those who had their phones taken. Each of the confiscated phone was put through a thorough 10-hour long forensics evaluation, the sheriff’s office said.
“They came to me and took my phone too,” McNutt said. “They’re trying to figure out who started the page.”
Authorities and parents like Lori Lyons, who has a 15-year-old daughter at Louisa County High, are hoping the incident will help teach students about the dangers of sexting.
“I’ve talked to my daughter before and said, ‘Don’t ever do it, no matter who asks, no matter what,'” Lyons said. “I hope they learn how dangerous it is to do and how it can get into the wrong people’s hands. … They’ll never do it again, hopefully.”
The teens are not likely to be charged, the chief deputy said, adding that the school is not involved in the investigation and none of the incidents occurred during school hours.
In mid-February, North Carolina police launched a state-wide investigation after naked pictures of teen girls appeared on 40 different Instagram accounts across 10 counties. At least one teen was arrested and charged with cyberbullying.
Last year, a study published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that teen sexting is on the rise, with nearly 30% of high school students having sent sexually explicit messages from their cell phones at one time or another.
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