Inappropriate phone pics of underage students not limited to a few areas

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - At least a half dozen counties in North Carolina are now part of an investigation into Instagram accounts featuring nude or semi nude pictures of underage girls.

On Friday a Rowan County high school student was arrested for posting a topless picture of a friend on social media.  But since that arrest, we're hearing from parents who says it's happening just about everywhere, including private church schools, from public middle and high schools, to even private church affiliated schools.

"It's very common," said local resident Wanda Neely.  She says while investigators may be looking into cases involving students at particular schools, it's happening anywhere there's a phone.

"Whenever a friend shows a picture of another young lady, it spreads through the whole cell phone community of any teenager, it doesn't matter," Neely added.

Rowan Sheriff Kevin Auten, whose agency brought charges against a 17 year old West Rowan student Friday for cyber bullying, agrees that it's happening more than most folks realize.

"I know Granite Quarry police department is working on one, Landis police department is working on a case," AUten said.

And search warrants from the Landis case mention posts at several different schools in the area, including Carson High, South Rowan High, and Kannapolis Middle School.

Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook say they try to police this kind of activity.  Each site has warning page on Instagram, but how can it know when the girls are underaged, or if they post the pictures or someone else does it without their knowledge?

The sheriff has an answer for that.  He says the responsibility starts somewhere else.

"Just be smart with what you do with a camera and a phone and no put those kind of pictures of yourself out there.  It's certainly bad when people take advantage of you but don't make it easy for them to do by providing those pictures." Auten added.

Even with the age requirements, WBTV found today that there are web sites that give people advice on how to get around the safeguards and view pictures of underaged students.