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More than 50 teens emailed and texted photos. (Brian Dubreuil/CBC)

Police are warning dozens of Nova Scotia teenagers that sharing nude photos of themselves could lead to criminal charges.

Cape Breton Regional Police said more than 50 students in the Sydney area have been texting and emailing hundreds of explicit photos to each other — actions that have come to be known as sexting.

"It may have started off with one or two individuals, just sharing a photo with one person, and then, as we all know with how social media works, it spreads very quickly and the next thing you know, we've got a whole network of people that have the stuff in their possession," said Chief Peter MacIsaac.

The local school board is distributing a letter from police, explaining that posting explicit photos of anyone under 18 is considered making or distributing child pornography.

"A lot of the photos were with regards to females exposing their breasts, both males and females exposing their genital areas," said MacIsaac.

MacIsaac called the images "disturbing."

Police said no charges have been laid.

"We are approaching this in terms of an education and awareness piece right now, but again, police are aware that it's happening and we certainly will be monitoring this," said Desiree Vassallo, a police spokeswoman.

"We want them to know that it is a serious offence and would be prosecuted as such."

The warning letter will be handed out to parents. Police are also visiting classrooms and coaches are speaking to their sports teams.

At Sydney Academy, students say everyone's talking about the photos and the letter from police.

One student told CBC News he has heard that students are deleting pictures, resetting phones and buying new phones because they're scared.

Police said they were tipped off about the photos by a teacher.