By Julia Tracy, resident, Youth Leadership Advisory Council
Good afternoon. My name is Julia Tracy. I grew up in Winthrop and last year graduated from Winthrop High School. I’m presently a freshman at Northeastern University where I am studying child psychology. Last year, I was a member of District Attorney Conley’s Youth Leadership Advisory Council. I, too, want to thank Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, District Attorney Dan Conley, DA Sullivan and everyone else for their work and support for this legislation.
As Jack talked about earlier, it’s no secret that young people love their cell phones. Every day we rely on a multitude of apps and websites for information, recreation, transportation, and socializing with friends and family. And so I want to take this rare opportunity to demonstrate how a cell phone can be used in a really positive way: to take a selfie with Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito and all of the DA’s to let my friends and family know that there is a really important piece of legislation being introduced today!
The legislation being introduced today is, in our view, well balanced. It protects and respects first amendment rights and provides what we think are reasonable responses to behavior that can range in seriousness from the foolish and unwise to risky to truly dangerous and damaging. In most instances, when kids start sending around pictures of other people – usually teenage girls and young women – they don’t always realize the harm they might be doing so they need to have their awareness raised and the behavior stopped. This bill will establish educational programs where most kids can be diverted.
But occasionally, kids also share explicit images of others and do so for the express purpose of shaming or embarrassing them. Sometimes they do it to get revenge when someone breaks off a relationship. Other times girls are even threatened that if they don’t send more photos, that other pictures might be shared or they’ll be targeted for other forms of abuse. This is much more serious and can do real damage to people, again, most often young women. This legislation gives law enforcement and the courts options to look at the facts and determine the best way forward to stop the harassment and the harm.
When the District Attorney’s Youth Council first began discussing this issue, one of the things we all agreed was that there needs to be a change in the whole culture that surrounds social media and some of the activities that people routinely engage in. The legislation being proposed won’t change the culture overnight, but it does align the law so that it’s clear that there is at least a basic standard for conduct which says that it’s not okay to forward or share explicit images without the consent of the person in those pictures.
We think this is an important step forward. We urge the legislature to pass this legislation and we are again, very thankful to Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, District Attorney Conley and Sullivan and all of the state’s District Attorneys for listening to our concerns and putting this bill forward.