Sponsored by Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law:
The issues facing parents today, as technology ushers in newer and faster means of communicating, are markedly different from those faced by our parents. Through ever increasing methods of communication, our children have, at their fingertips, the ability to reach a multitude of people in an instant. Take that instantaneous availability, and mix in the processing and maturity of the adolescent brain, and, in the blink of any eye, circumstances may be set in motion that can immediately change the course of your child’s life.
While the above may seem drastic, it is, nevertheless, true. On the Internet, our children can access and disseminate child pornography, commit racial and bigotry crimes, and violate our state’s bullying laws, without even knowing it. Through posts on Facebook, Twitter, Yik Yak, Flickr, Tumblr and MeetUp, just to name a few social media sites, words and images can be sent into the vast world of social media and the internet, where they can be reposted, retweeted, tagged and sent to all corners of the globe. Once sent, they are there for all to see, including law enforcement.
This onslaught has led organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics to issue clinical reports on the impact of social media and sexting on our children (Fn1). Further, it has led each state, Connecticut included, to pass laws making it a crime to engage in certain activity that affects the health and safety of our children.
While this article is not meant to be an in depth analysis of each and every statute which criminalizes certain conduct of our children through their use of social media, it bears mentioning some common issues which arise. One widespread problem that occurs in the educational environment is bullying.
Connecticut has enacted a comprehensive statute, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education, to ensure that bullying does not impede our children’s learning environment. Enactment of criminal laws, some of which are felonies punishable by more than one year in jail, has made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Another common problem occurs if your child sends a “visual depiction” of child pornography (nude or showing genitalia) of himself/herself or that of his/her partner, and either one of them is under 16-years-old, they have violated our state’s “possessing or transmitting child pornography” statutes (fn2). If they use their Facebook account to meet someone under 16, for the purposes of engaging in a sexual act, they have violated our state’s “enticing a minor” statute.
The above is just a snapshot of the complex issues that occur when you mix the not-yet-fully formed mind of a child and the speed of the Internet and social media. It is also the reason you should seek competent legal representation when confronted with these issues. Consulting with the right attorney can potentially prevent mistakes such as those mentioned above from affecting your child’s future.
Editor’s Note: Attorney Michael A. Blanchard is a Director at Suisman Shapiro whose practice concentrates in criminal and family law. Contact him via email at email@example.com or via phone at (860) 442-4416 with questions regarding these laws.
Fn1. Clinical Report-the Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families; O’Keeffe, Gwenn Schurgin, Clarke-Pearson, Kathleen and COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA; published online March 28, 2011; Sexting and Sexual Behavior among Middle School Students; Rice, Eric PhD, et als; published online June 30, 2014.
Fn2. Connecticut General Statutes sections 53a-181i through 53a-181l.