Menasha sexting investigation reveals larger problem with teens

APPLETON – A sexting investigation in Menasha is revealing some things parents may not want to hear.

Four teenage boys could face juvenile child pornography charges in the Fox Valley case.

Six girls could be charged with juvenile disorderly conduct for allegedly texting naked pictures of themselves.

Some students from an area high school told FOX 11 sexting is a common occurrence among teens.

Police agree it happens more than parents realize.

They say teens started sharing naked pictures of themselves when smart phones became popular.

But police and others say there can be long-term consequences and what happened at Menasha High School is not an isolated incident.

“It’s probably something that we don’t necessarily think that our kids are often involved in,” said Appleton Police School Liaison Officer Ignacio Enriquez.

Enriquez works at Appleton North High School. He says reports of sexting are taken seriously.

“It’s difficult to think of the consequences when you have so easy access to these things.”

Those consequences could be long-lasting.

“If an offender is under 17 years of age, the matter will be handled by juvenile system and kept out of the public eye, but the images themselves, the actual harm done will be public information because it will shoot around social media,” said Winnebago County District Attorney Christian Gossett.

Psychologist Dr. Frank Cummings says the reasons students do it may also come as a surprise.

“One is that they are testing the limits, two is that they don’t think anybody is going to find out and three and most importantly is that it’s kind of fun, it’s exhilarating and its about getting away with something.”

Teens can use a picture sharing website, like Instagram, or other apps like Twitter and Snapchat.

“It may seem funny, it may seem like it’s not a big deal, but the devastating effects can ripple throughout a person’s life,” said Gossett.

Enriquez says police and parents need to be on top of what students are doing on their phones.

“If we all have better communication about these topics and these issues I think we can be proactive about it and actually prevent these incidents from happening.”

Those consequences can go beyond legal measures as well.

Employers and landlords often look at social media sites for background.

Experts say the best thing to do is to keep private photos to yourself.

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