The Todd Hoffner case has taught us all that adults are not attuned to the dangers of cell phone cameras. Unfortunately, this concern is even greater with minors and their use of cell phones through high schools, middle schools and possibly even elementary schools across Minnesota.
In 2010, the Pew Internet Research Center found that 75% of teens 12-17 had cell phones. The research also noted that 15% have received nude or nearly nude photos on their phones and 4% have sent nude or nearly nude photos of someone they knew. If those photos that were taken and shared were of kids their age, they would all be guilty of possessing child pornography in Minnesota. Most kids will never be prosecuted because it may never be brought to anyone’s attention. However that’s not always the case.
An illustration of how the law takes a hard stance on use of cell phone pictures is if an 18-year-old boy, a senior in high school, had a 17-year-old girlfriend. The girlfriend took photos herself using his phone or sent the photos to her boyfriend via email or text message. The 18-year-old boy would be guilty of possessing child pornography, a felony. If this case would be taken to trial the jury would be ordered by the court follow the statute verbatim.
The 17-year-old “victim” and 18-year-old “felon” will now have some significant collateral consequences. First, the 18-year-old will likely have to start registering as a sex offender under Minnesota law. And the 17 year old’s two pictures will be put forever in a national database intended to identify minors who have been repeatedly used in pornographic work.
A teenager may not realize how a simple taking or sending of a photo could affect the rest of their lives. The Hoffner case presents an opportunity to talk to our kids about these dangers.