SURRY COUNTY, N.C. -- The school year is out in Surry County, but Sheriff Graham Atkinson says he's already working towards next school year. However, he says it may be too late for some students, because summer could bring an increase in sexting and cyber-bullying.
Sheriff Atkinson says they've had over 20 cases of sexting and/or cyber-bullying in the county this past school year alone. He says children as young as middle school students are doing it. He says summer brings less supervision, and with less supervision comes more opportunity for teens to use technology and social media.
"Technology is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a really evil tool used against kids," he said.
Sheriff Atkinson said it only takes one picture and you could be on the web forever.
"You're involving yourself in a pay-for-service pornography industry and most of them never make that connection in their brain," he said.
Parents we spoke with said they hear about the issues from their children.
"Twelve and 13, 14-year-old kids [are] doing this, or younger. It's really got outta hand," said Derrick Lynch, of Ararat.
Sheriff Atkinson said there was one case where a parent made threats against a student on Facebook. He says parents should be the ones preventing that kind of activity.
"I know my kids' passwords to their phones, to their accounts, to their Instagram," said Heather Johnson, of Ararat.
"If you can't control your kids, and you find out that it happens, you need to take drastic measures to stop it," said Lynch.
Sheriff Atkinson says if parents don't set rules now and monitor their kids' activity, the technology that seems to run their lives could destroy them.
"Before, you had to worry if the neighbor's kid was peeping in your window. Now you have to worry that the whole world is peeping in on your child," said Sheriff Atkinson.
Sheriff Atkinson says he's worked with school officials to educate students about the dangers of social media in the past. He is currently working with them to set up more sessions for the upcoming school year.