Child Protection – Secretly recording underage girls in shower isn’t child porn says court

The Supreme Court of the state of Tennessee vacated the conviction of the charges of  producing child pornography.  The defended, a Knoxville man, named Thomas Whited secretly filmed his 12 year old daughter his daughter’s 14 year old friend. He recorded them showering, going to the bathroom, and undressing. Whited recorded the bathroom for two months for his own sexual reasons, but the the high court vacated his 22 year sentence on the grounds that what was filmed did not constitute pornography. Since the girls were not engaged in sexual acts and instead were doing “everyday activities.”, it wasn’t pornography. You can read the court’s decision here. It may not be considered porn, but in the area of child protection, the father certainly failed.

The majority of states define child pornography to varying degrees on whether the purpose of the recording is to sexually stimulate the one watching. That was the criteria used to prosecute and convict Mr. Whited. Tennessee, however, isn’t one of those states. The child pornography laws of  Tennessee state that the intent of the viewer or producer of the recorded images isn’t relevant. What is relevant, is the what story the images or videos are telling.

The Tennessee law defines child pornography as showing children having sex, simulated “sexual activity,” and “lascivious exhibition” of children’s private parts.  In this case,  there was no sexual or simulated sexual activity being filmed. The court believed that that there was vagueness in  the “lascivious” definition of the law. Otherwise filming a baby’s first bath might also be considered child pornography. The law seems to be having a hard time to balance child protection.

“The question is close, but we must hold that the videos at issue do not rise to a level at which the trier of fact could reasonably find that they include “sexual activity,” defined as the “lascivious exhibition” of the minor’s private body areas…. Rather, the minors in the videos are engaging in everyday activities that are appropriate for the settings and are not sexual or lascivious within the ordinary meaning of those terms. For this reason, we reverse and dismiss the defendant’s nine convictions for especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.”

The court  also added that the video producer’s “subjective intent or purpose of sexual arousal or gratification” isn’t relevant.

So what does this mean for child protection in our video everything age? It means that we have to be even more vigilant in how we protect our children. While it still may be illegal to record children in areas they are not expecting to be recorded, it won’t be child pornagraphy, at least in Tennessee and other states that interpret the law the same way.


Sexting – is your child doing it?

Sexting, or sexual texting, has become a huge thing with the modern world. What grown adults of legal age do in their own time is their business, unless its with a minor.

Recently, there have been numerous scandals across the United States involving minors and sexting. Some involve people of note such as Anthony Weiner who was caught having a sexting relationship with an underage teen.

In recent months, there have been numerous scandals involving high schools across the country.

Newtown High school students charged in sexting ring

20 current, former students charged after Holmes County high school sexting scandal

Police investigate sexting scandal at 2 Suffield schools

Students at Boiling Springs High School facing charges for sexting

These are all recent events where students were charged with crimes due to the texting. Wait, arrested and charged with a  crime for simply texting? What was the crime? Possession of child pornography. The law doesn’t distinguish between taking a picture of yourself or someone else. If the subject of the picture was under the age of 18, then the picture is child pornography. So it means if your underage child takes a nude picture of herself, the photo of herself on her own phone then becomes a felony crime of possession of child pornography.  The crime becomes even more serious when your child then shares the picture with others. Then they are also now in possession of child pornography.

Children need to be taught how serious this is. I won’t go into the moral implications of this. That isn’t the purpose of this article. This is simply about the legal dangers of using technology in an inappropriate way. Children need to be taught about just how serious of crime this. The four links above show that children can, and do, get in trouble for sexting. Once a picture leaves your phone, you have no control over where it goes and who sees it. Eventually it will find its way to someone who will report it. It also doesn’t matter if the person is now of legal age. If they weren’t when the picture was taken, then its still a crime.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a nice page for talking to your kids about the dangers of social media and sexting. You can read it here.

The page cites a survey that was done recently and found that 20% of all teens had already sexted and sent inappropriate pictures. That’s quite a bit of crimes being committed out there.

Reach out to your kids before they get caught up in this and end up on a sex offender’s list for what they probably think is a harmless event in their lives.