A national survey suggests one in four kids have been involved with sexting. Officials are determined more than ever to do something about it before more lives are ruined.
Todd Rudner is a Twin Falls police detective, but lately he's made public speaking to teens part of his job description.
"What these kids don't understand is that there are bad people out there who will get a hold of them and blackmail them, whether for money, other things," said Rudner.
He's talking about inappropriate photos that are sent to and from cell phones - like a text message. Hence, the name "sexting." Whatever it's called, it is child pornography. And as a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force of Idaho, Rudner is starting to see more of those photos end up on the Internet.
He sees photos like the one of Nampa teen Sadie Coons.
"I wasn't thinking and I just wouldn't do it over again," Coons said.
What started with a note from a secret admirer ended in another teen's arrest.
Sadie started texting her secret admirer who said his name was Darian. A bond formed and soon, she felt close enough to Darian that when he asked her for a nude picture of herself, she agreed to send it to his phone.
What Sadie didn't know was that Darian was actually Nampa High classmate Kaleesha Simms.
"Within a week I had got a picture and pretty much just by saying, 'I love you, I love you. I'm really upset. The only thing that's going to make me feel better is if you send me this picture,’" said Kaleesha Simms.
Kaleesha says as a prank, she sent Sadie’s topless photo to other kids.
The picture soon hit the entire school. It even made it to the Internet.
Sadie's picture was technically child pornography, so police arrested Kaleesha.
Kaleesha was apologetic, but prosecutors made sure she learned her lesson - she was convicted of a crime and spent time in juvenile detention.
"Everything in her life is completely different because of something that I did," said Kaleesha Simms.
Many schools, law enforcement and prosecutors have begun campaigns to warn teens of the impact sexting can have.
In Canyon County, deputy prosecutor Brian Taylor created a task force to deal with the problem.
"Little Susie that's a 9th grader right now that sent these images. Once she becomes a mom or wants to run for a political office or something down the road, here comes this image 15 years down the road. Because once they hit the web, they can never be taken away," Taylor said.
And because these racy images can't be taken away, a huge concern is what happens when those images are distributed online by an eager audience.
"The peddling of internet porn, especially child pornography is an epidemic and to the extent that sexting contributes to that problem, it needs to be stopped," said Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak.
Rudner could not agree more. When he speaks to teens at high schools, the reaction he gets from his young audience tells him that sexting is going on much more than adults know.
"Sometimes they laugh, sometimes its a nervous laugh and if you watch the audience now and again, you can see who probably sent out that inappropriate picture within the last 24 hours," said Det. Rudner.
Sexting is not only in high schools - law enforcement reports it in junior high and elementary schools, too.
In one example, an elementary student slipped a camera phone underneath a girl's bathroom stall.
"It's unchartered territory in terms of school discipline policy," Matt McCarter of Idaho Department of Education.
The State Department of Education requires schools to track certain crimes on school grounds. Since sexting is fairly new, it's not on the books.
But it is on the radar and if sexting is suspected, some schools take student phones.
"Some districts, for liability issues, have chosen to be hands off. We'll confiscate the cell phone. We won't look in it, come pick it up at the end of the day. Other schools have opted just to remove the phone's battery. There was incident, not an incident, but a policy example where a high school chose to not confiscate the cell phone. Take the battery so then they don't have the option of looking in the phone," McCarter said.
Though the state doesn't require schools to follow sexting incidents, a Twin Falls principal decided this week his school will do it anyway.
And he hopes other school leaders around the state will follow suit.
"I think you're going to see more and more of it in the coming years and I think it's going to be important for us to get on the front end of that and take a look at what's going on," said Brady Dickinson, principal of Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls. "I think it would help us all to have policies and procedures to deal with when it does occur," he said.
But all agree the best way to fight sexting is for parents to get involved.
Take it from Kaleesha Simms.
"More often than not the kids are doing it behind their parents back and maybe they're deleting them so the parents won't see but if the parents don't usually check it might be time to start," Kaleesha said.
For months, a non-profit group in the state has been researching teen dating issues, including sexting, and will release recommendations next week on how the community can fight back.
Here are some links for more information regarding sexting: