Lady Forced to Delete Pix of Kids (Not Hers) with Mall Santa

Hi Readers: Is there some way we can convince Americans (and then the world, and then the galaxy) that taking pictures of a child who is out and about in public is not the same as sexually violating them? Because the fact is:  Most people taking pictures of kids are not doing it to get off on ’em. And for those few who are, dare I ask: So what? It’s like that disclaimer at the end of a movie: No child was harmed in the making of this photo.

I think the hysteria about kiddie picture taking stems from a lot of sources:

1 – The belief that anyone interested in kids other than their own MUST be a pedophile. (And what a lovely notion that is.)

2 – The deep-rooted fear that a picture really DOES capture the soul.

3 – The conviction on the part of some parents that their kids are SO preternaturally attractive that they are going to be singled out by everyone, including talent scouts, college admissions officers, and perverts.

4 – The idea that, “I once heard something about a picture of some kid that ended up on the Internet and…” I.e., some half-baked urban myth that doesn’t even make SENSE, but rattles around in the collective consciousness.

So here’s the story of a middle aged woman who wanted to take some sweet Christmas photos at the mall (I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms to some of us). She shot some photos of kids talking to Santa, and the kids’ mom kicked shot her dead.

Well, not quite. But the mom certainly killed the photographer’s Christmas spirit. So did the security guard who demanded she delete the photos of the kids.

Now the weird twist is that the photographer lady is actually a former West Virginia State Senator. And in a column she wrote about the mall/photo experience she says:

The woman who had stalked me through the mall did not know that I am a former state legislator who initiated and succeeded in creating strict laws against pedophiles in the West Virginia legislature. To me, the random child in my picture was simply a representation of a special moment in a human life and an innocent attempt to capture the magic of Christmas.

I just wonder how her “strict laws against pedophiles” dealt with other folks just trying to capture a special moment. Let’s hope her laws were measured and sane. And let’s hope that what we all get this season is the gift of calming down and connecting, instead of fearing everyone and everything. — L.

Never Post a Baby Photo on Facebook?

Hi Readers — It’s nice to hear of sanity taking root!

Dear Free-Range Kids:  I just had my first child 6 months ago and I never thought I’d even have to worry about Free-Range Kid topics until he was at LEAST 3 years old, but I was wrong.

I posted an adorable picture of my son on my facebook page 2 days ago of him having tummy time on a towel; diaper free.  Lo and behold, this morning in my message box on Facebook I have a concerned ex-co-worker warning me about the dangers of putting naked pictures of my child on the internet and that pedophiles could get ahold of the photo.  I don’t know how I would have responded a few years ago.  Perhaps I would have sheepishly said I was not worried and in the back of my mind wondered if I was right.  Thanks to you and this wonderful community of fearless parents this was my response:

Oh, you can’t see his front bits. I’m not worried. Perverts can make
something sexual out of ANYTHING. Even feet, or eating cake. We lock
our doors at night, try not to drop our baby on his head, and don’t look
for babysitters on Craigslist. Most sexual abuse happens with family
members, friends, and teachers/ religious leaders, etc. So the best
thing we can do for Ari is make sure that growing up he feels comfortable
talking to us and is raised to fearlessly express his boundaries. In
addition, crimes of that nature in this country have actually
gone DOWN in the past 20 years. I respectfully appreciate your concern
but life’s to short to deprive my family members of that cute little
tush. — A Less-Worried Mom

Hey baby! It's nice to see you (here, on the internet).

No Photographing Children without Parental Consent?

Readers — We’re getting to the point where ANYTHING having to do with children is so fraught with inflated fears that we are going absolutely crazy. Consider this bill just introduced in the New Jersey state assembly: It would outlaw the photographing or videotaping of kids in situations in which “a reasonable parent or guardian would not expect his child to be the subject of such reproduction.”

How’s that for vague? So, suddenly, a kid in the background of your park pictures is taboo if his dad is mad you’re taking a pic? Or maybe you’re breaking the law if you’re videotaping your child’s pool party and the other parents haven’t signed a waiver? Since when is photography a crime? The camera really does NOT capture anyone’s soul. Promise!

The bill was prompted by an incident last summer in which a 63-year-old man was caught taking pictures of some pre-teen girls. The geezer admitted to police he was photographing them because he found them (fully clothed): “sexy.”

For the record, that is kind of creepy. But it’s also harmless. And one man’s ickiness should not criminalize anyone with a camera. If photographing kids becomes illegal, we will have entered a new kind of society. A kind of totalitarian one, where our everyday rights have been stripped away, supposedly for our “protection.” Except that now we can be arrested for something that poses zero danger!

Somehow, I don’t feel safer. And I don’t feel my kids are safer, either. — L

Would we have any pictures like this if the proposed law was passed?

When Will It Become Illegal to Take ANY Photos of Kids?

Hi Readers — Here’s a piece I wrote for ParentDish about the topic of kiddie pix. Adults are getting really paranoid about the idea of children in photos, as if any snapshot or video of a kid is going to be used for scary, nefarious or disgusting purposes. As a reporter and sometime video maker, I can’t stand the fact that in many cases, we’re not even allowed to shoot casual images of kids at play, if their faces are identifiable. That’s why so often on TV you’ll see pictures of kids’ LEGS running around a playground, but not the rest of them.

Think of how grateful we are to have archival photos like these:Today, you’d have to get releases from these kids’ parents to publish that, or possibly even to take it! Once again, normalcy (the desire to take a lovely picture) is being de-normalized.

It may not sound like a big deal, but it is another brick in the “When it comes to children, no one can be trusted” wall. Sure, kids have rights, but how about the right to live in a society that doesn’t second-guess every interaction between child and world? — Lenore