In 2020 the President of Ireland signed into law a Bill criminalising the sharing of intimate images without the subject’s consent. Since February 9, 2021, these laws have been in place and enforced in Ireland. Here is everything you need to know about this law so that you can inform and educate your children.
What is the legislation?
The legislation states that if you record, distribute or publish intimate images without the permission of the person featured in the images, you are guilty of an offence. Depending on your intent in sharing the images, you can face a maximum prison sentence of up to 7 years. Additional protections are also in place to protect the victim should they be identified and embarrassed or further harmed by the situation.
Any prosecution of a child under 17 years of age under the Act can only be brought with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
An intimate image is and video or photograph that contains:
- A person’s genitals, buttocks or anal region (and, in the case of women, their breasts)
- The underwear covering these parts of the body
- A naked person
- A person engaged in any form of sexual activity
Source: Citizens Information
How can you violate this legislation?
There are two criminal offences associated with the sharing of intimate images without consent.
Intent to Cause Harm: This is when a person shares an intimate image without consent with the intent of harming a person. The sharer will intentionally share intimate images with the goal of embarrassing or harming a person. You can be sentenced to a maximum of 7 years in prison for this offence.
No Specific Intent to Cause Harm: This is when you distribute or publish an intimate image without consent but with no specific intent to cause harm to a person. This offence is often associated with the sharing of images of people you do not know. And remember, you do not have to be the person that recorded the person or took the photo to be prosecuted for this offence. If you republish an image without the permission of the subject, you can be sentenced to a maximum of 12 months in prison.
Why do you, as a parent, need to know about this?
You may be thinking, this is a bit heavy for your child. Perhaps you think they are too young for you to have to worry about this kind of thing. Or perhaps you don’t believe your teenager would never share intimate images of anyone. While that might be true it is always important to educate yourself and your children on these matters. Parents need to know what their kids are doing, because it is an offence for a child to share such a picture Education is empowerment. Without being aware of the issue and having all the information an informed decision cannot be made.
The internet and in particular, social media, is an amazing place where we create connections through our sharing of knowledge, information, memories and more. According to a report by Backlinko in 2021, 4.48 billion people worldwide use social media. That is 56.8% of the worlds population! Of course, you don’t need me to tell you how prevalent social media and the sharing of content is in our society. All you need to do is to look at the younger generation and you will rarely see them without a phone in their hands. While sharing images and videos online can be a great way to connect and share experiences with friends, it is also important to remember that what is shared online is very real and can have significant consequences. As children grow, their level of maturity and ability to understand and recognise potential consequences grow with them. With more and more younger people accessing social media and sharing content online, it is more important than ever to talk to them about the negative impact of sharing explicit content online without consent. Being aware and open with your children about how they use the internet is so important. Here are some tips on how you can bring up the subject with your teenager.
How to talk to your teenager about sharing images online
- Share the facts in a casual setting – Sometimes bringing up serious issues with teenagers can feel like a judgement or an acquisition. By bringing the subject up in a more casual setting such as over dinner, you can relieve those feelings and create an environment for open non-judgemental discussion. Rather than telling your teenager you want to talk to them about something serious, simply say in a casual setting, ‘I was reading about this new legislation today about sharing intimate images online and thought it was really interesting…’
- Have tangible examples ready to share – Describing legislation and consequences can be quick dry and hard to relate to. Having some simple, relatable examples to support and better explain the law can really help your teen understand the situation. For example, rather than just saying ‘It is a criminal offence to republish intimate images’, you could say ‘You don’t have to be the one that took the image or video. Even if you are sent an image by a friend and you send it to another friend, that counts as republishing and can be very serious.’
- Engage them with open ended questions – Instead of asking direct, sometimes uncomfortable questions, try asking more open-ended questions that encourage your child to think about their opinions and share them. For example, instead of asking ‘Have you or your friends ever shared an intimate photo without consent?’, try asking ‘How would you feel if someone took a photo of a friend and shared it?’ Don’t forget to share your thoughts and feelings too!
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