WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - Nude pictures of a 13-year-old girl in Waveland are at the center of a cyberbullying case. Another teen is accused of sending the explicit photos to dozens of people, mostly other teenagers.
The case is part of what police call a growing and disturbing problem, of which parents may not even be aware.
"Sexting is a lot bigger problem than people think. It's becoming, unfortunately, almost acceptable in the teenage culture. And once those pictures are out there, they are out there. A lot of boys and girls are trading these pictures like baseball cards," said Waveland Police Chief David Allen.
It's a dangerous and damaging practice that Waveland Police Chief David Allen said needs to stop. He showed WLOX News page after page of illicit messages investigators uncovered while looking into a cyberbullying case involving a 13-year-old victim.
"The bullying had gone on to a point to where the victim was getting to a very low point emotionally and we absolutely had to step in and start taking care of this," Allen said.
He said the victim was coerced into sending nude photos of herself and then threatened.
"Going back to the origin of the pictures, we eventually figured out she was actually extorted of these pictures, a phenomenon known as sextortion. With sextortion the person turns around and says, 'Now that I have these pictures of you, you will send me more or I will send these out to everyone you know,'" explained the chief.
Police used a high tech device to trace where the indecent photos went. They found the pics went to dozens of other phones, mostly to other teens. The phone tracer also led investigators to a 13-year-old girl, who police believe is the cyberbully. She was arrested Tuesday and so was her mother.
"Going through the evidence, we found out that the mother of the 13-year-old suspect had knowledge of what was happening to a certain extent and there was a huge failure for her to be a responsible adult in this case," according to Allen.
He said the sad thing is it could have all been avoided.
"I'm very frustrated by the fact that a lot of people, including adults, knew about this months ago. Nobody called us, no one asked us to step in and protect this girl."
The Waveland Police Department is part of several Cyber Crime Task Forces. It plans to educate parents about what to look for on their teens' cell phones. The police also plan to educate students about the dangers of sexting and sextortion.