Collective Shout has called on Hardie Grant Grant Children's Publishing to remove advice for minors re the sending of nudes from its new title 'Welcome to Sex’ (Dr Melissa Kang, Yumi Stynes, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, Richmond, Vic, 2023).
The Open Letter is addressed to Sandy Grant, Chief Executive and Chair and Fiona Hardie, Chair, Hardie Grant Media & Director. It has so far been signed by 1,237 individuals including leading adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg and cyber-safety expert and former police officer Susan McLean.
The letter states:
While we support efforts to educate children and young people about bodies, sexuality, relationships and consent, we believe this advice fails child safeguarding standards and puts children and young people at risk.
In the section titled ‘Nudes, texting and online sex’, the authors write (p.174) “If we were talking to our own kids, we’d tell them to always crop their heads out of any photos, just in case…”
Australian laws make it a crime to possess, produce or distribute sexual images of minors. In some cases, there may be some limited exceptions and defences - but your readers, acting on the advice on headless nudes, may risk being charged with very serious criminal offences.
Criminal charges are not the only risk. There is evidence to suggest that boys in Australian schools play at guessing who the headless nude belongs to, causing distress among girls who fear they may be wrongly identified as the sender. In this context, boys play ‘swap the head’, superimposing a preferred head onto the image and sharing it among their groups.
We are also concerned about advice on p.175, “If you send a nude with someone you’re being intimate with, they aren’t allowed to share it with anyone else without your consent, and vice-versa – it can be a crime.” This advice is also misleading. In these cases, 'consent' may not be recognised as a defence or exception in criminal law.
We believe there is a significant risk that you have inadvertently published advice which may lead to the commission of an offence.
Children and young people – especially those skimming the book in school libraries without mediation of an adult who may understand the risks – cannot be expected to be across the legal ramifications.
For these reasons we call on you to remove this section of your title prior to the next reprint.
It is not 'harm minimisation' to advise young people to remove their heads before sending.
"Minors sending nudes is, with few exceptions, against the law. Cropping the head makes no difference," Movement Director Melinda Tankard Reist said.
"Boys play 'guess the head'. I meet girls who discover to their shock that boys have superimposed their heads on the naked body to use for masturbatory purposes together. The stress and anxiety of this causes more harm.
"Girls need to be empowered to resist pressure to send nudes. Once their image is out there they lose control. Degrading them further by advising they remove their heads does not serve them."
August 4, 2023
Contact: Melinda Tankard Reist, Movement Director