By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The latest investigation into high school students sharing sexually explicit images is another reminder that it can be considered child pornography.

A Shakopee High School student approached a school resource officer in late January about the issue there. That prompted a police investigation into members of the boy’s hockey team sharing several nude pictures of a number of girls.

The investigation into sharing sexually explicit pictures among students at Shakopee High School is not uncommon, but it is serious.

“We get a handful of these every year and the concern is always how far has that image spread. Was the image taken with consent, how many times was it shared, with who? Those are the type of things we’re back tracking on right now and trying to connect all the dots,” Shakopee Police Chief Jeff Tate said.

Tate said there’s only one way to prevent it.

“Always remember the best way to make sure there’s never an inappropriate photo of you that gets into the wrong hands is to never take it in the first place,” Tate said.

The students involved are all underage and can’t consent to a nude picture.

If police determine a crime occurred in this case, the Scott County Attorney’s office would determine if charges will be filed.

“Every individual that gets that picture, every individual that forwards that picture could potentially be charged with possession or distribution of child pornography,” Ron Hocevar said.

Hocevar said it could result in a felony and having to register as a predatory offender. Something teenagers often overlook.

“They understand that it’s wrong they shouldn’t be doing this. What they don’t understand is the potential life-long consequences of what they’re doing,” Hocevar said.

WCCO has learned the teens were using what’s called a “vault” app. That’s an app that disguises what it really is. For example some look like calculators.

Parents can monitor what their children are doing on their phone. A defense is to install parental control on Google Play or Ask to Buy on iTunes. That way a parent knows what is being downloaded and can limit what is downloaded.

The school district provided this statement:

“As we look into the matter, we want to encourage parents to talk to their children about the dangers of transmitting inappropriate images through email and/or text messages,” said Superintendent Dr. Rod Thompson. “Today’s students are connected to one another, and to the world, via digital technology more than any previous generation. Everything sent over the internet or a cellphone can be shared with the entire world, which is why it is important to exercise good judgment in sending and/or sharing messages and pictures. It is also imperative that parents talk with their children of all ages about social media and monitor their online social media use to help them navigate this new, ever changing online social world.”

Jennifer Mayerle

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