WYCKOFF, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A sexting incident at a New Jersey middle school has police warning students who may have inappropriate pictures of a 13-year-old girl.
The sexting scandal has rocked the Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School in Wyckoff, and parents and residents can’t believe it, reports CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.
“It’s upsetting, because these people don’t realize what effect it has on their lives,” grandparent Fran Kandravy said. “Once it’s out there, it’s out there forever.”
Police said a 13-year-old girl took explicit pictures of herself and sent it to several boys, who in turn sent it to their friends. Before the girl knew it, the photos had gone viral.
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Police on Thursday gave the students an ultimatum – delete the pictures or face the consequences.
“If you have this after [Thursday] and we find out about it, we’ll investigate it and we will charge you,” Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox said.
Sexting has become an epidemic with teens across the nation.
A psychiatrist at Hackensack University Medical Center’s children’s hospital said communication is the key for parents.
“Help them understand the risk and damages to their reputation…socially…and the long-term effects and consequences,” Dr. Wilbert Yeung said.
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Dr. Yeung also said it’s important to tell your kids early on that you reserve the right to monitor their cell phone and computer use, because they’re often discovering themselves and trying to gain acceptance during their teen years.
“It’s more important to them to have friends and be popular, and this might be something a child might be doing to gain popularity and get in with a circle of friends, or impress someone at that moment in time – without realizing, in the long run, there are many more consequences,” Dr. Yeung said.
The middle school had a similar incident three years ago, and parents said they’re bombarded with anti-sexting information, so it’s made comprehending this latest incident more difficult.
“They talk about from sixth grade on, even in the grammar schools, not to get involved in this,” parent Janet Hoogerheyde said. “Kids are educated this way – still, they do.”
The school said they have counselors on hand, and police said they’ll have an officer visit the school next week to talk about the consequences of sending inappropriate material, as well as bullying.
Police said that because the picture has been sent to dozens of people, they were working with the school to make sure no one bullies any student involved in the incident.
When Eisenhower Middle School had that sexting incident three years ago, the police department successfully conducted an amnesty program, identical to the one that they implemented for this incident that ended Thursday morning.
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