EASTERN CAROLINA - The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into reports that photos of nude underage students are being shared on social media, including "potential violators" in Eastern Carolina.
According to the Attorney General's Office, the inappropriate photos of underage students were found on Instagram, and the SBI has identified more than 30 accounts as "potential violators."
The investigation includes Pitt, Craven and Edgecombe Counties. The other counties under investigation are Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Randolph, Surry and Wake Counties.
One of the local law enforcement agencies the SBI is working with is Havelock Police. Officers were able to find the accounts of some "potential violators" and have sent the information to the SBI, according to Diane Miller, Havelock's public information coordinator.
The SBI is also working with the Pitt County Sheriff's Office.
The Pitt County school district has released the following statement in regards to the investigation:
"Pitt County Schools was recently notified about the criminal investigation into the posting of illicit and illegal photos of some students on social media. However, district officials are not aware of any photos that have been taken on school property or with school devices.
"The school system will continue to work with investigators any way possible as they search for the source of these postings. Additionally, Pitt County Schools is collaborating with school resource officers to rehash the costly consequences of unsafe behavior online. Parents are also encouraged to continue monitoring their kids and how they utilize technology and social media."
Meanwhile, Craven County Schools said they have not been contacted by the SBI.
We spoke to a student who goes to a school in Craven County. He says, he's not surprised to hear about this happening.
"Yea, I've heard about it happening," the student said. "The way the photos get out for everybody to see is because they think that person [they are secretly sending a nude photo to] is not going to tell anybody, or show anybody else. But people can lie and say I'm not going to show it to this person, but they really will."
Parents we spoke with say this activity concerns them.
"It is very disturbing," said parent Sheila Snyder. "I think that kids today have way too much internet freedoms and that they aren't monitored well enough."
Cyber expert Glen Webb agrees with Snyder. Webb says sharing nude photos can drastically influence a person's future life decisions.
"All it takes is a right click, and a save, and you can make a billion copies of it and send it out any way you want to. So it can be devastating for a long time, especially if their real name is associated with it," said Webb. "When you're talking about college applications and job applications, when they do background investigations, that's going to pop up. You don't want that out there forever, especially when it hits the internet because you're open to 7 billion people worldwide."
Webb encourages parents to talk openly with their children about not taking and passing along nude photos. Webb says having access to all of their email and social media accounts is a good way to help deter this behavior.
In Durham County, the Sheriff's Office is investigating two reports of nude photos circulating on Instagram-- pictures of a 17-year-old girl and a 14-year-old middle school student, according to ABC-affiliate WTVD.
Wake Forest Police are also investigating after a mother reported that someone uploaded naked photos of her daughter when she was 14 or 15 years old.
No arrest has been made in the investigation. Distributing sexually explicit pictures of minors is a felony with a penalty of up to a year in jail.
The SBI is encouraging parents and students with information on this case to email Ops-Center@ncdoj.gov.
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