Another story about youth sending naked pictures of themselves to each other through their cell phones. This one is a little different because it involves middle school students (6th and 7th graders) instead of the usual “barely legal” kids that are getting caught. The charge against them was also interesting; each of the four youth (two boys, two girls) were charged with possessing “material harmful to minors,” a misdemeanor. Though much better than slapping these young persons with child pornography charges (a felony subject to resulting in sex offender registration), the phrasing of the law is rather striking here. Images of their bodies are harmful to themselves? Or, taken in a more adolescent egocentric way “a picture of my body can cause harm to my friend? I didn’t think I looked that bad…”
I understand when laws are in place to prevent such picture sharing when the goal is to protect youth from the potential mass distribution of a photo they only meant their current sweetie/crush/lust object to see. But to charge them with possessing a picture that would harm them in some way? That to me seems a bit odd, disconcerting, and potentially backfiring:
“Why was I arrested, officer?”
“Because you had in your possession some pictures that can cause you harm.”
“But that’s a picture of my girlfriend. I think she is beautiful. I dig her.”
“You mean that a picture of me naked might mess someone up?”
You can see where unhealthy lessons about sexuality and body image can easily be the take home messages here.