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Body Safety

Police Officer Reveals 4 Legal Dangers When Minors Share Nudes

In an era where smartphones are nearly ubiquitous among teenagers, a concerning trend has emerged: the sharing of explicit images among youths, not only with peers but also with strangers. I would estimate 75% of high school girls have sent nude photos of themselves by the end of 10th grade. I estimate about 40% of middle school kids (8th grade) have sent nude photos of themselves to a friend or a stranger.

This phenomenon, driven by a quest for acceptance and a sense of worth, is fraught with risks, not least of which are the severe legal consequences and the potential for long-term personal harm.

Nudes as currency

The pervasive culture of sharing nudes has led to them becoming their own currency. For example, If a young lady wants to buy marijuana/vapes she can pay money, she can send a nude photo of herself to the seller, or she can do a mixture of both. The value of her photos is dependent on her perceived hotness and how many photos of her are in circulation. Once someone has a nude photo of a female classmate they can then trade the photos to others for credit on items they want to buy.  

The girl's nude photos quickly become a digital currency and are traded on Snapchat many times over. Unfortunately girls as young as 11 start trading nude photos for Roblox credits, vapes, marijuana, and anything else they might want.

Boys who don’t have money to buy smoking products know they can start trading items in their house for products or get their hands on nude photos of classmates to trade. There are many scams emerging in high schools to attempt to get nude photos of girls such as:

  • Boys will create fake accounts of the popular sports kids and ask girls for nudes.
  • Boys will hack into girl's phones/computers and steal their nude photos to trade.

There are many ways for boys to get a girl's photo and then trade for whatever they might need. Girls have also been known to trade pictures of other girls for items they may need.

Once a girl's photo starts circulating as a currency, it is nearly impossible to stop.

The legal landscape of sharing nudes

Under Idaho law, which mirrors statutes in several other states, the exchange of nude photos by minors is met with strict legal repercussions, designed to underscore the gravity of such actions. Here are four ways a minor can be in legal trouble when sharing nudes.

  1. Sharing one's own explicit image
    • First offense is considered a misdemeanor.
    • A second offense escalates to a felony.
  2. Possession of a peer's image (within three years of the minor's age)
    • A misdemeanor for the first offense, turning into a felony for subsequent offenses.
  3. Possession of an image of someone more than three years younger
    • Classified as a felony from the first offense.
  4. Sharing or threatening to share another minor's image
    • Any such offense is deemed a felony, emphasizing the serious view taken by the legal system towards these actions.

While many states have similar laws, there can be variations. You can learn the sexting laws specific to your state here.


Emotional and psychological effects of sharing nudes

These legal ramifications, however, may only scratch the surface of the potential consequences. Beyond the immediate threat of criminal charges, the act of sharing explicit images can lead to devastating emotional and psychological effects, including:

  • vulnerability to sextortion,
  • stalking, and
  • irreparable damage to one’s reputation and future opportunities.

Beyond the law: The unseen dangers

As a police officer specializing in the intersection of technology and youth safety, I've seen firsthand the dangers posed by sextortion schemes, where predators blackmail young individuals, leveraging their fear of exposure to extract money or further compromising images. This predatory behavior preys on the naivety and fear of young individuals, often leaving them too scared to seek help from parents or authorities.

Related: Cyberbullying and Sexting–Is Your Child’s Reputation at Risk?

Opening lines of communication

Addressing this issue head-on requires open, honest dialogue between parents and their children. It’s essential to discuss:

  • Reasons behind sharing:  Explore the motivations and pressures that might lead to the sharing of explicit images.
  • Potential consequences: Discuss the broad spectrum of legal and personal ramifications that can arise from these actions.
  • Strategies for prevention and intervention: Talk about the importance of maintaining control over one’s digital footprint and what steps to take if a situation escalates.

Initiating these conversations can be challenging, but approaching them from a place of understanding and concern can open pathways to meaningful dialogue. By educating our children about the dangers and supporting them in navigating these complex issues, we can help protect them from the far-reaching consequences of sharing explicit images.

The kids who are less likely to fall for these types of behaviors are the ones whose families have regular conversations about values and self-worth.

Related: Do Kids Deserve Digital Privacy? 3 Myths Debunked for Smart Parents

A call to action for parents

This situation calls for vigilance and proactive engagement from parents and guardians. Awareness of the law and the broader risks associated with the sharing of explicit images is the first step in combating this issue. Creating an environment where children feel safe to discuss their experiences and concerns without judgment is crucial to preventing harm and ensuring their well-being in the digital age.

Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum - Family Edition

"Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent

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