A Sacramento mom dishes on parenting, family and everything in between

Most parents just can't resist taking a bath-time photo of their baby or small child.

It's innocence personified - those sweet little faces beaming at the camera from amongst a tub full of bubbles.

We parents eagerly snap photos and file them away in our computer hard drives or photo albums, saving them for the day when we can show them to the child's spouse or our own grandchildren.

But an investigation and subsequent lawsuit in Arizona has spurred a national debate about whether it's OK to take such photos and what parents can do with them.

An Arizona couple was accused of sexual abuse last fall after they took photos of their kids that included bath-time shots to Wal-mart for processing.

Lisa and Anthony "A.J." Demaree's three young daughters were taken into custody for a month during the investigation. Neither parent was charged, but the couple is now suing Wal-mart and the state.

The photos were among 144 pictures taken during a family vacation. Seven to eight of the bath- and playtime photos showed a "portion or outline of genitalia," the Associated Press reported.

"This is a parent's worst nightmare," Richard Treon, the couple's lawyer, told the AP.

One of my favorite photos of my son is a bathtime shot. He was a little under a year old at the time and standing at the tub in nothing but his little fur-lined Robeez booties, his cute baby tushy facing the camera.

That photo has never been printed. It's never been e-mailed. I'm a little paranoid after years of crime reporting and obtaining a master's degree in criminal justice will do that to a person. But I can't put aside the fear that the photo might be misconstrued or fall into the wrong hands.

Now I'm beginning to think my paranoia may be a blessing in disguise.

Jim Harris, an FBI supervisory special agent who heads the Sacramento office's cyber crime program, said the average kid-in-the-bathtub photo isn't considered sexually explicit in the federal system and there aren't laws that prohibit digitally sending or printing such photos.

Parents should, however, exercise caution when e-mailing or posting their kids' bathtub photos on the Internet.

"I am always in favor of posting as little to the Internet as possible, particularly naked pictures of kids," he said. "There are folks who, even though the picture isn't designed to arouse sexual desire, find them to be arousing."

If you use photo sites, know the terms of service.

"If the company isn't promising anything, they shouldn't expect anything in terms of privacy," Harris said.

Fair Oaks grandmother Klorys Happe said she took bathtub photos of her three children all the time when they were little, their faces adorned with bubble mustaches and beards.

"It was innocent fun," she said.

Happe also cherishes a recent photo of her two grandsons - 2 years old and 6 months at the time - in a bubble bath.

The loss of frivolity in something as simple as a bathtub photo of a child is disappointing, but even more disheartening is the need to protect such photos.

"There are just ugly people out there sometimes that take advantage of innocents," she said. "I'd like to think it's pretty few and far between, but how do we know?"

What do you think? Have you refrained from e-mailing or printing bathtub photos of your kids or grandkids? Post your thoughts and comments here.
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