20 Teens Charged in Cape May Sexting Scandal

Have you checked your middle schooler's phone recently?

Photo by "Smallbones" via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by “Smallbones” via Wikimedia Commons

Ah, Cape May, that idyllic Jersey Shore town that’s usually associated with bed-and-breakfasts, wine bars, and salmon-colored Bermuda shorts and generally not associated with anything approaching a scandal. But thanks to a group of high school and middle school students, Cape May is now the epicenter of a sexting scandal.

This week, Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor announced criminal invasion of privacy charges against one teenage adult and 19 juveniles. The teens are students at the Lower Cape May Regional High School as well as the Richard Teitelman Middle School. If convicted, the adult, an 18-year-old student, faces as much as five years in prison, while the juveniles could see as many as two years in a facility known as The Training School.

The investigation began in April, when a juvenile female student told school officials that nude photos of a friend of hers were being circulated among male students. School officials brought in detectives from both the prosecutor’s office and the local police department.

Authorities confiscated 27 cell phones during the course of the investigation. Prosecutors say that there were many nude and semi-nude photographs of female students that were being traded by male students through text messaging and social media.

“The prevalence of ‘sexting’ among our high school and middle school students is concerning,” said Taylor in a statement. “It is imperative that these students understand the severity of their actions and the impact that their actions have on themselves, their victims, and the community. Students in other Cape May County schools should be aware that these actions are criminal and can lead to prosecution.

Taylor added that his office offers a free seminar to every school in the county on the perils of cyberbullying and texting.

A 2012 study showed that 25-percent of teens admitted to sexting, and we’re guessing that number has increased significantly since then, with the exponential growth of social media. In Pennsylvania, some teens caught up in sexting scandals have been charged with child pornography.

And keep in mind that with services like Instagram, those photos are no longer yours, as evidenced by the current New York art exhibit in which an artist is selling other people’s Instagram photos for $90,000 a pop. So, parents, if you haven’t already had the “don’t be stupid enough to send nude photos of yourself to other people” conversation, maybe now is a good time to do so.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.

Previously: Selfie Sex-Ed: Should High Schools Teach Sexting Risks?