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Small Colorado town rocked by sexting scandal at local high school
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Up to 100 kids involved circulating over 300 images, as criminal charges may be filed in sexting scandal at a Colorado high school. - photo by Eric Schulzke
The small Colorado town of Caon City was rocked Friday with revelations that at least 100 kids had been trading naked pictures of themselves in a "sexting" ring that was said to even include some kids as young as 8th graders in the local middle school.

The high school football team appears to have been ground zero for the scandal. "On Thursday night, separate community meetings were held for parents of football players and parents of other students to address the scandal, which has shocked this quiet, semirural community of 16,000. The team was forced to forfeit its final game of the season," The New York Times reports.

The photos went undetected due to a piece of phone software that hid them from adults. "Disguised to look and function like an innocent smartphone app," the Washington Post reported, "photo vaults also known as ghost apps allow people to conceal photos, video and information in plain view on their phone. Theyve been around since at least 2011, but have grown increasingly common as smartphones have gained popularity. The App Store and Google Play are littered with apps designed to help users hide their activity and camouflage sensitive information."

Ghost apps, hidden apps, theyre everywhere and the kids know about them, Internet sex crime investigator Mike Harris told NBC affiliate KUSA. Weve been hearing about these for probably five plus years now. The problem is parents are giving their kids smartphones (and) iPads, and if their kids dont know about ghost apps, or hidden apps, their friends do and they can tell them how to go about putting them on. And then we as parents, even if we try to be vigilant, check our kids technology devices, were not going to see them there.

Prosecutors here and around the country are struggling with how to tackle the problem, which is thought to be widespread. Even if the photos of minors are taken voluntarily, circulating them is a crime and youths involved could end up on sex offender registries.

Just last week, 16 high-school students in Greenbrier, Tennesse, were charged with sexual exploitation of a minor over a similar incident, the Wall Street Journal reports. This is harmful to the kids, Police Chief Kenneth Smith told WSJ. Its almost like bullying.

Some states have begun calibrating sanctions for youth involved in such incidents, to try to prevent and contain them without permanently ruining the lives of teenagers who make mistakes.

"Many newer laws still prohibit peer-to-peer teen sexting, albeit with reduced penalties," WSJ noted. "For example, Connecticut lawmakers in 2010 made it a misdemeanor for anyone ages 13 to 17 to possess a sexually explicit picture of someone 13 to 15. New York, by contrast, under certain conditions allows sexting teens to go into a diversion program, which can include sessions on the legal and social risks of sexting."