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Yes, Some Youth Are Making Money from Feet Pics, But Is It Legal?

June 1, 2022

Caveat: We are not lawyers, but several on our team do come from a strong law enforcement background. As always, please ensure that you connect with a lawyer when it comes to actual legal advice on any topic of concern. This article is specific to Canada, but we have also learned that much of what we found also applies to many US states as well.

Over the past several months, during our question and answer segment with both middle school and high school students on the topics of sexting, nudes, intimate images and the Canadian law, we have seen an increased frequency of teens asking us about the legalities of sending/selling feet pictures online. Yes, this is a thing; in fact, there are a plethora of online sites where teens can sell these types of pictures both in Canada and the United States. Don’t believe us? – just Google it yourself and see what pops up!

Obviously, these questions about feet pics parked our interest, we wanted to drill down on this topic with teens who follow us on our social media platforms. Teens have a lot to offer us adults, especial when it comes to their onlife world, we adults just need to be willing to listen. We asked our teen followers this question:

“Do you know a teen who is selling feet pics”

183 teens replied with 34 stating “yes” (19%).

Although this was a small anecdotal survey, it did shed some light on the fact that, yes, there are some teens (appears to be a very small number) who are engaging in this type of online behaviour. In fact, we helped a family whose 17-year-old teen was sending pictures of their bare feet for $25.00 per picture deck. This specific teen had made over $350 in one week sending pics of their feet. So, with this reality teens, parents, caregivers, and educators need to understand the legal consequences, if any, when it comes to engaging in this type of online activity.

It is well understood that when it comes to teens sending or selling nudes online, there could be criminal consequences under the criminal code of Canada such as the possession/distribution of child pornography, or the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. However, the question that needs to be answered is, “are the selling or distribution of teen feet pictures applicable to these laws, and therefore also illegal in Canada?”.

After reading the criminal code, combined with several voiced opinions from legal scholars here in Canada, the answer is “No”. Why? – because the picture of a person’s feet would not fall within the legal description of “child pornography” under section 163.1(1)(a), or an “intimate image” under section 162.1(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC)

Definition of child pornography

163.1 (1) In this section, child pornography means

(a) a photographic, film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means,

(i) that shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of eighteen years and is engaged in or is depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity, or

(ii) the dominant characteristic of which is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of eighteen years;

Definition of intimate image

162.1(2) In this section, intimate image means a visual recording of a person made by any means including a photographic, film or video recording,

(a) in which the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts or is engaged in explicit sexual activity;

However, of importance, those who ask and pay for these types of pictures (the consumer), depending upon context, could face being arrested for “purchasing a sexual service from a person under the age of 18yrs” under section 286.1(2) of the CCC:

Obtaining sexual services for consideration from person under 18 years

286.1(2) Everyone who, in any place, obtains for consideration, or communicates with anyone for the purpose of obtaining for consideration, the sexual services of a person under the age of 18 years is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of

(a) for a first offence, six months; and

(b) for each subsequent offence, one year.

For section 286.1, it would be up to a court to determine the case-specific parameters of what consists of sexual service. We could see a court ruling either yea or nay.

If our goal as a parent or caregiver is to provide our kids with accurate information so that they can make informed decisions, then yes, we need to be honest with them about the legality of sending feet pictures, even if we disagree with the law. However, and more importantly, we should also have deeper discussions with our kids about the fact that although feet pictures are not illegal in Canada, the distribution and selling of feet pics actually fuels the growth of the online exploitation of youth, especially with those who identify as female.

Often, the selling of what teens see to be innocent feet pictures, can also lead to more intimate pictures being shared or sold. Why? – because sometimes those who purchase such pictures will pay way more money for an actual teen nude. Feet pictures can, and often do, become a gateway to the exchange of child pornography or intimate images because of the disinhibition effect of the internet and the lure of easy money. So, although feet pictures are not illegal to distribute or sell, and although youth may believe that sending or selling such pictures are not harmful, it is important for them to understand that such pictures can and do support the sexual abuse and exploitation of youth – there is a direct nexus!

Also, although the selling of feet pictures may not be illegal under the criminal code of Canada, teens do need to understand that there could be significant financial consequences under the Canada Revenue Agency Act (CRA)

Recently, we had a discussion a business accountant and learned something very interesting. The selling of feet pictures would be considered a “service” by the Canadian Revenue Agency and therefore, any money made, even gifts, would be considered taxable income. This fact also applies to those under the age of 18 yrs. It doesn’t matter to the CRA if the money was made legally or illegally by a teen. Although the CRA is likely not aware of the amount of money that is being made with this type of behaviour, which can be significant, they do have a tip line where anyone can anonymously report such activity. Not only can the CRA claim money owed to them, but will also add interest on that amount owed. As the old saying goes – “They want their cut!”

So, what is a parent to do?

  • Engage with your kids about what they are doing online. The good evidence-based research has shown us that parents who engage with their kids in their online activity, through parental communication and parental participation, those youth are far less likely to engage in less than desirable online behaviour.
  • Does your child have links to credit/pay apps in their social media profiles? If they do, what are they using them for?
  • Have an open and honest discussion with your child about this issue. Enlighten not frighten is the key. Remember, be your child’s best parent and not their best friend!
  • Speak the truth about the legalities surrounding the sending of feet pictures. Remember, what you say is only a Google fact check away. If you try to bluff on the legal consequences, they will know, and parent credibility will be shot.
  • Although feet pictures are not illegal to distribute or sell, let your child know that the consumers who want to receive or purchase these types of pictures from youth could be breaking the law in Canada.
  • Let them know that the selling or gifting of feet pictures can have significant financial consequences via the CRA.
  • Have a deeper discussion with your child about the fact that although they may believe that sending or selling feet pictures in not harmful and an innocent way to make money, it is important for them to understand that such pictures can and do support the objectification, sexual abuse, and exploitation of youth – there is a direct nexus!

When it comes to feet pictures, or even intimate images that are being sold by youth online, parents and caregivers need to create a paradigm shift with our kids on this issue, a paradigm shift such as the one pushed by the Ontario London Abused Women’s Centre – “I am not for sale! Stop the Demand! End Women/Child Abuse”

Digital Food For Thought

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