If you are reading this article, that probably means you have put down your phone, at least temporarily. But where is it? Is it within arm’s length? Have you separated from your phone for more than a few minutes today?

No judgment here! My phone is in my hands right now. And I have no doubt that our kids have their phones within spitting distance so we are the last people to throw stones. So instead, we pose this question, if you have or know any children:

How often are your children on social media each day? Do you track those hours? How often are you on social media? Are you modeling behavior that you would like your children to emulate?

We have all heard how the mission of chasing “likes” on social media platforms can be damaging to young minds and can exacerbate feelings of unworthiness. But in the world of criminal justice, social media use can produce equally if not more pernicious outcomes. Unfortunately, social media has created a vehicle for new crimes and delinquent acts that parents should be aware of. We want to remind parents to monitor their children’s social media accounts and look for the following:

  1. Cyber-bullying.  Is your child being victimized on social media? Or maybe your child is poking fun at someone else? With the advent of social media, there is no such thing as harmless bullying anymore. Bullying has become amplified in the echo chamber that is social media. Your child may think it’s funny to post a video taunting little Joey who came to school with a new haircut that garnered attention, but when 300 of Joey’s classmates have “liked” the post, this raises the consequences of this taunting to a whole new level.  Cyber-bullying, done repeatedly with the requisite intent, is a criminal offense and also might get a child suspended from school.  Even if the original online posts are seemingly innocuous, oftentimes the malicious comments and viral “likes” combine to make the post harassing and embarrassing to the victim.
    Many of us would agree that our children are too young for social media. We recognize, however, that many of our children have social media accounts. And if they do, take heed and make sure your children’s posts do not intentionally – or even unintentionally – target another individual in a negative light.
  1. Terroristic threats.  Remember the olden days when the school fights would take place in the vacant lot after school? We may not have had social media to spread the word back then, but we did a good job of that ourselves by whispering of the time and location of these so-called brawls in the hallways throughout the school day.  Oftentimes those fights never materialized; the build-up was exciting enough.
    But now, if two students get into an argument, one or both may resort to posting online threats about the other person.  Sometimes a weapon is displayed in the post, but threatening words are enough to trigger criminal sanctions. Posting online, “I’m going to kill you,” and suggesting that you have the means to do it, has becoming shockingly commonplace on social media. Even if the threat is directed to an unnamed individual, this still may constitute a true threat if the recipient’s identity can be gleaned via context. Because the content of these posts is objectively threatening, the author of these posts may be subject to criminal prosecution.
  1. Doxxing.  This word may be unfamiliar to you, so let us explain. Doxxing has been defined as the intentional publication of a person’s private, personal information on the internet without that person’s consent. Oftentimes doxxing is done for malicious purposes to embarrass, coerce or retaliate against the victim. Doxxing is especially concerning when the victim is a child, who does not possess the means or resources to immediately address the violation of privacy. Doxxing creates safety concerns for the victim and constitutes a fundamental betrayal of trust, especially if the perpetrator knows the victim. Kids sometimes “doxx” their friends in ways they believe may be funny, but this behavior is harmful and dangerous.

Your children likely have heard about cyber-bullying and doxxing but not all of them appreciate the consequences of conduct they might perceive as harmless. As parents it is our job put our own phones down and remind them of these dangers.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this page is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or acted on as such. The content on this page may not reflect current legal developments or address your situation. It does not create an attorney-client relationship or provide guarantees or endorsement of behavior and is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney on a particular legal matter.