LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Lexington police say when they started hunting for people accessing and distributing child pornography six weeks ago they discovered that some of Fayette County's youngest students were involved in the crime.
"During the investigation we found people, as young as elementary school students, sexting," said Commander Gregg Jones.
Police say in some cases they found older students passing around naked pictures of their classmates.
"Older children, middle to high school age, were distributing sexual photos to bully, shame or intimidate their peers,” Jones said.
Four juveniles have been arrested and charged with possessing child pornography. Three of them have also been charged with distributing child porn.
Investigators say they're consistently seeing the crimes among young students because children are accessing social media on phones and computers at younger and younger ages.
Police say they added five officers to a task force in January to investigate the internet crimes.
Since then they also found nine adults accessing and distributing child pornography.
Investigators say the arrests were able to stop more children from being exploited.
"There were transactions that were axed and not completed as a result of that information," said Jones.
Investigators say they race against the clock to find child pornographers because some will act on what they're seeing.
"Research from the FBI shows that 86% of people who view child pornography become hands-on offenders," he said.
Police say they hope parents of students will take a hands-on approach to protecting their children.
"Monitor your child's use of cell phones, iPads, computers, all their devices," said Jones.
He says parents who pay attention can help protect more than their child's innocence, they can protect their future.
"It may not seem like a big deal now but making a bad choice today could ruin your life,” he said.
Police say since phase one of their investigation was successful they plan to start phase two soon.