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Parents Talk: When are Naked Photos of Children OK?

The child pornography charges against football coach Todd Hoffner have many parents asking what types of photos are appropriate.

Child pornography is usually pretty clear-cut.

That’s what former Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner told Minnesota Public Radio on Thursday. The cases she handled were typically “pretty hardcore stuff” that were easily identifiable as child pornography.

But that’s not so clear in the case of Todd Hoffner, the Minnesota State University—Mankato football coach charged with making pornographic videos of his children.

On Wednesday, Hoffner’s attorney told a court the videos found on Hoffner’s work phone were of innocent family moments with his children—who were between the ages of 4 and 9 years old.

Photos of naked children are hardly unknown to parents. Mothers and fathers lovingly capture moments of toddlers bathing in sinks or innocently playing in their birthday suits.

But the Hoffner case raises the question of where those innocent moments end and more-harmful ones begin. Investigators who testified at Wednesday’s hearing called the videos "disturbing"—but added that they were unclear whether they were legally child pornography.

According to the Mankato Free Press, a sex therapist reviewing the videos saw:

  • A 92-second video in which three naked children are playing and happy. In the video Hoffner’s son grabs his penis, and the children “spread their buttocks and expose their anuses for the camera.” The sex therapist said there was no evidence what they were doing was designed to elicit a sexual response.
  • A 10-second video of two girls, in the middle of which a boy appears behind them wearing a football helmet.
  • A 118-second video of a sleeping “adolescent female” who was awakened and led to the bathroom. She was wearing “bed clothing.”

The sex therapist—who’s internationally renowned for his sex offender research and treatment methods—said he did not see anything lewd or obscene in the videos.

We won’t have an official decision Hoffner’s case until it’s over, but the charges have generated controversy over what types of photos are appropriate for parents to take.

Patch would like to know where you draw the line. How old is too old to photograph your son or daughter without clothes? How much of a child’s normal curiosity with their body do you capture? When do photos stop being heart-warming and start being—to use the investigators’ words—“disturbing?”

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Dave Haas November 04, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Alfreda - yes, he had to view them as he shot them. However, the point I was making is that he wasn't showing them or viewing them every minute of every day. He had not even watched them after he shot them. The explanation he provided seems to me to be reasonable. The daughters had a dance routine that they wanted to show him, the son came in and made some gestures and motions that were not appropriate. Daughter's wanted to do over - dad said no. The 2nd video of the girl going to the bathroom - I have 3 kids - I know that kids forget when to go and when they went at night. Did I ever video my kids getting up and going potty? No - but I have heard of this - in fact a doctor recommended it at one point so we could prove to our daughter that she was able to get up and go by herself. It would be much easier and clearer had he made 500 copies and distributed them, but he didn't. This falls into the much ado about nothing category in my book.
Daryl Fryxell November 06, 2012 at 06:39 PM
You people need to get control over your kids. Good grief.
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