RED FLAGS FOR PARENTS

JANUARY 2002 ARTICLE POSTED IN DANIEL ISLAND MAGAZINE “LEGAL CORNER”

As a brief introduction, we are former federal and state prosecutors, we both ran large prosecutor’s offices, and one of us also served for years as a state juvenile court judge. We also happen to have three children, ranging from ages 15 to 10. Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual but our experience in the world of criminal and juvenile justice has given us some additional perspective, which we would like to share. Thus, we point out a few red flags for parents of teens and pre-teens:

  • Warn your children of the pitfalls of Snapchat. Unlike other social media sites, Snapchat has a way of lowering the inhibitions of its users by suggesting that the “snaps” disappear in a matter of moments. Of course, as we all know, nothing ever disappears from social media (especially if someone else takes a screen shot), but there is a larger point. When children’s inhibitions are lowered, they tend to be lulled into a reckless spontaneity, posting riskier things they wouldn’t dream of posting if they believed the medium was more permanent. Children mistakenly believe their threats/pictures/posts immediately disappear, but some learn the hard way that their posts don’t simply vanish. Encourage your child to use a different medium to communicate with their friends, even if the nature of the communications (study group chats) seems benign.
  • Pay careful attention to what’s in your child’s school backpack. Consider the 15-year-old whose well-meaning grandfather gifts him an antique pocket knife over the holidays. The boy, excited to show his friends his beloved new gift, takes the knife to school and leaves it in his locker. As you may already know, school searches are quite common, as there is a diminished Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures on school grounds. While the laudable purpose of these school searches is to uncover controlled dangerous substances and/or dangerous weapons, many times we have seen otherwise law-abiding children become ensnared in the system by bringing to school these seemingly harmless items. And while the child who just wants to show off his treasured gift to his friends does not possess the intent to harm others, he does in fact possess the intent to bring a banned item onto school property. To avoid putting the onus on your child to prove the more benevolent intent, perhaps it’s better to make sure your child doesn’t have these items in his backpack in the first place.
  • Lock down household items. Literally. As an example, in our garage we have an outdoor fridge, which is where we keep our beer and White Claws. This also happens to be where our children hang out with their friends. When we first realized the ease of access to our alcohol, we immediately ordered a padlock from Amazon for our outdoor fridge. (They make these padlocks for precisely this issue!) We have no reason to think our kids are drinking yet, but as former prosecutors we know better. This isn’t simply a solid parenting move; it also reduces potential criminal and/or civil exposure for parents. When alcohol or other controlled dangerous substances are consumed by a minor on someone’s property, and if that minor or a third person is harmed as a result of the minor’s intoxication, the conduct of the owners of the property will likely be scrutinized to evaluate the ease of access to the dangerous substances. Get that padlock!

Deb and Chris Gramiccioni met while serving as federal prosecutors in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. They recently co-founded Kingston Coventry LLC, a Service-Disabled Veteran Owned law firm with offices in Charleston and New Jersey. Check out kingstoncoventry.com for more information about Deb and Chris and the firm they founded.

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