Juveniles can get quickly entangled in social media crimes

In the last decade or so, social media seems like it has become tightly interwoven with modern life — changing the way people meet, stay in touch, build relationships and fall in love. It’s also changed another big factor of life: how crimes get committed.

In some cases, social media has just opened new doors for old tricks — for example, vacation robberies are hardly new, but social media has helped thieves find new targets and track them better than before. Someone who has their cellphone’s location tracker turned on is essentially broadcasting to everyone in sight of a computer when their home is available to be robbed.

In other cases, social media has actually been behind whole new types of crimes. Those are the ones that ordinary people, especially juveniles, tend to get involved in, because they either don’t realize it’s illegal or act without thinking. Caught up in the remote world of cyberspace, it’s easy to forget that online actions have real-world consequences.

Consider online threats, stalking, and bullying. What was once a schoolyard social problem had to be reclassified as an actual crime to reflect what happens online because of the power of the internet and social media.

Stalking and harassing someone in the real world is a lot of work and most people, even teenagers, come to their senses before they take it that far. Online, however, it’s increasingly easy to badger a victim wherever they go, following them through social media. It’s also easy for teens to forget that their threats can be taken seriously. Unlike words shouted at recess, the threats leave an electronic trail that can be used for prosecution.

Actions like “catfishing,” which involves making up an online identity in order to defraud someone can quickly escalate into criminal activity. For example, a Connecticut teen probably thought he was clever when he posed as a 13-year-old girl and lured men into sending him nude photos, which he then used to extort them for iTunes cards — until he was facing felony charges that could have sent him to prison for years. He was lucky to escape with a suspended sentence and probation.

Many teens don’t realize the seriousness of their illicit online activities or the charges they could potentially face. If your teen gets charged with a social media crime, seek legal advice immediately.

Source: FindLaw, “5 Common Types of Social Media Crime,” George Khoury, Esq., accessed March 03, 2017

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