From birthday suit to lawsuit: minors should not be sharing nudes

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Zoë Chinander Mcfaul

“Definitely snapchat is the keystone element,” said senior “Ernie Groves” on the many social media platforms used for sharing explicit photos. Minors should be wary of the many consequences of having and sharing nude images such as legal charges, no control over where your photos end up and the longevity of virtual pictures.

It’s your boyfriend —the light of your life and the fire of your loins— and he wants nudes. This may seem like a fun and risqué thing to do, so you send him a quick pic. but what you may not  realize is that by sending a 5-second Snapchat of your naked body, in the eyes of the law you may now be a sex offender.

Realistically, it might not be that dramatic. In Minnesota it takes a lot more than this to be registered as a juvenile sex offender, though the person receiving your photos could be charged if they are legally an adult. Even so, minors shouldn’t be sharing nudes in any way.

In Minnesota, child pornagraphy laws prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from taking and sharing sexually explicit photos of themselves. In some situations, minors who send photos could be charged with dispensing child pornography. More often, anyone over 18 who receives and doesn’t report your photos would be charged as a sex offender. “If it’s an adult that’s being predatory and asking for those [pictures] than I think they should be registered, that’s something that they should know better,” said junior Aria Wanek.

Minors can send nudes in many different ways. Snapchat, Instagram and other social media create ways to streamline information from words to images, and it’s less embarrassing to send a virtual picture then to get your photo developed at Walgreens. Some choose to send their nudes to certain individuals, and others may post them to a broader audience.

Apps and social media allow for easy sending and the false security that once your picture is deleted, it’s gone forever. “I think some people don’t know [that your content is online forever] and some people just disregard it,” said junior Eoin Irmiter.

This doesn’t mean social media is bad; social media gives young people the chance to communicate and connect. However, the Internet is also new, and a lot is still unknown about the inner workings of it. Unfortunately that leads to blind trust in a system that is still being figured out.

One reason for not posting explicit pictures is the lack of control you have over pictures shared online. “[The biggest risk of sending explicit pictures is] the fact that it’s out there, the fact that I don’t know where it is,” said senior “Julia Sanagra,” who chose to be anonymous for the purpose of this article.

Additionally, your photos circulating the Internet will be there for a long time. “People don’t really know in general about the Internet and how stuff is out there forever,” said Irmiter.

A lot of times you aren’t aware of who has seen your pictures when you post them. This is especially a problem for minors. With the right amount of clicks anybody could have your pictures at their disposal, including predatory people who have intentions of targeting children. Furthermore, “employers will often look at social media history, [and] it could really hurt you [in the future],” said senior “Ernie Groves,” who also decided to remain anonymous for this article.

Finally, nudes can create an unhealthy culture online. Receiving nudes is something that many beg for, but if you send them you are ridiculed for it. “I definitely think… slut-shaming-esque things are going on [if you send nudes]; people look down on you or think you’re easy,” said Irmiter, “There’s a culture around it online, there’s jokes about it, there’sa lot of media about [sending nudes] specifically.”

But if posting or sending nudes is illegal, why do teens still do it? Unfortunately, it feels that today’s kids are more pressured to send and post nudes thanever before. “We see so many hypersexualized images in the media that normalize bodies as objects.” said Groves. “I think the media plays a huge role in it.”

Lots of teenagers also feel sending explicit pictures is a way to show you care about your significant other. “Those who are in relationships are pressured to send nudes as a way to solidify their relationship with someone, which shouldn’t have to be necessary,” said Wanek.

However, some people share nudes as a form of self-empowerment. If you only share them with people you trust, they can be a confidence booster, especially when those people respond positively to your pictures. And when pictures are posted by girls, it’s often with the objective of fighting against the notion that feminine bodies need to be covered up. The point to be made — should choosing the way you display your body be illegal?

Of course, the answer is no, but you have to find the line between real life and the law. A lot of people believe sharing nude pictures of yourself to feel good is fine, but as a minor you also should be wary that it’s illegal, and there’s a chance you might not be in control of where the pictures end up.