Onondaga County Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Cali told parents Nov. 8 at Roxboro Middle School in Mattydale the combination of the Internet, digital cameras and cell phones was causing real problems in the local community and called it a "recipe for disaster."
"The reality is having smart devices, computers with cameras ... and access to the Internet in the pockets of middle school and teenage students has been a recipe for disaster.
"The convergence of junior high and middle school reality and smart phones we've found in law enforcement has been really, really difficult," Cali said in a presentation by the county's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
His talk concentrated on three different dangers involving students: "sexting," "cyber-bullying" and online predators.
"Sexting" is the transmission of indecent images or text via a cell phone.
"Right here in Onondaga County it's been a huge issue for us," he said. "It happens all the time - some young girl takes a picture of herself and she sends it to her boyfriend because she thinks he loves her, and he'll never tell anyone and he'll never show anyone ... and then when they break up that thing goes to everybody."
He gave an example of one local football star and his girlfriend, who remained unnamed. The boy was caught with a photograph of the couple engaging in a sexual act.
The player was an upstanding student otherwise, and was given a break. Authorities didn't register him as a sex offender.
Prosecutors often struggle with how far they should go with a case involving minors as the perpetrators. Most technology-related crimes carry serious penalties.
Anyone possessing a sexually explicit image of a child under 16 is guilty of possessing child pornography, Cali said, and a person who transmits a sexually explicit image of a child under the age of 17 is guilty of distributing child pornography.