Posted In , Juvenile Crimes On 06 August 2015
On behalf of Catherine Cleveland
People in Utah know that social media is incredibly popular, especially among young people. Minors are more likely to be exposed to social media on a regular basis, and for younger generations who are growing up with it, they simply may not know any different. People, especially teens, use social media to connect with their peers, but they also may unwittingly be oversharing or engaging in behavior that could actually be illegal. Social media has a lot of potential for good, but depending on who you ask, there may be just as much potential for exploitation and negative behaviors in today’s youth.
According to recent statistics on the subject, about 12% of teenagers said they routinely see people treating others cruelly online, and perhaps more alarmingly, 15% of teens say that they have been the target of such behavior. The internet can have a dehumanizing effect, especially when people lose sight of the fact that there are other people, with real emotions, who are impacted by these negative social media assaults.
While “cruelty” may be difficult to define, it is widely accepted that people who are able to hide behind a screen and not have to communicate with their victims face-to-face may be more likely to treat them less humanely than they would in person. Some juveniles may not know it, but their online behavior could land them in serious trouble, including prosecution for misdemeanor or felony electronic communication harassment. This occurs when a person uses electronic means to harass, threaten, frighten, abuse, intimidate or offend another person. According to the statistics, then, about 12-15% of all teenagers may be guilty of a misdemeanor or felony.
This isn’t to say that police will go after every single offender, but surely they could pick the most egregious examples and prosecute these people, essentially using them to send a message to other would-be online bullies. What happens online creates a permanent electronic record, so teenagers need to be aware that their online behavior can have serious long-term consequences. For more information on juvenile crimes and social media, an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney may be able to help.