MATTHEWS, NC (WBTV) - A middle school student took no chances when an unknown person on Instagram asked her to send a nude picture. She told her mom, who helped her report the case to Matthews Police.
The girl's mom, who did not want their identity shared, said her daughter was a previous victim of cyber-bullying and feared another case.
Last school year, according to a search warrant, a friend of her daughter's took a picture of the girl in the shower. It was spread to several people leaving the girl upset and in tears, said her mother. The case was prosecuted according to the mother.
Several weeks ago, the girl told her mom someone solicited a nude picture of her and threatened to publicize a previous photo, if the girl did not send more.
"She did exactly the right thing and so did the mom," said WBTV Cyber expert Theresa Payton, CEO of Fortalice Solutions. "Here's the thing: on the internet, things do not get better with time. This is not like aging fine wine; they turn into vinegar," said Payton, explaining why it's so important to quickly contact authorities.
Sharing a nude photo of someone under 18 could land the accused on the sex offender registry for a lifetime, Payton said, if the person is convicted of spreading child pornography.
She also emphasized that even if a picture only appears on social media for a few seconds, it can be saved by someone and shared again.
She warns parents who may see their families affected on both sides of the cyber attack. For the parents of a victim, Payton said it's important to remind the person that he or she did nothing wrong and to be supportive.
For the parents of a potential cyber bully, Payton says the young person needs to understand that the decision to spread an inappropriate picture is not only wrong; it's a legally punishable crime.
"To make an error in judgment and be a registered sex offender the rest of your life, you're not going to get the chance to explain what you were doing," said Payton. "You're just going to have that label," she said.
Matthews Police Officer Tim Aycock said the case is still an open investigation. He said investigating cyber crimes can take time, and detectives are looking at all angles.
The mother said she is proud of her daughter. She said even though the previous case left her daughter distraught for a time, she chose to stay in the same school and hold her head high.