With the popularity of smartphones, we have access to social media all day long. It allows us to voice our opinion, and share our lives with the public. Let’s face it, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, are now common forms of communication for both adults and children. It is both entertaining and informative – Kind of like digital gossip. However, most of us have witnessed the lack of good judgment in various “posts” from adult friends. Similarly, today’s youth rush to social media to announce their daily events and feelings without giving much thought to it. Unfortunately, a post on social media discussing your child’s sexual engagements with another can get the immediate attention of authorities.
In Michigan, the legal age of consent to sexual activities is 16 years of age. Statutory laws are in effect to protect minors from sexual abusers that are adults or peers. In a country where teens sometimes engage in sexual activity before they are the age of consent, it muddies the legal water. Legally, persons engaging in sex below the age of consent cannot give “consent.” That means, if a young man and woman engage in sexual activity, and are younger than 16, either party can be charged with sexual assault even if neither party feels victimized. Moreover, if a minor boy or girl claims to have sexual relations with another minor on Facebook, it is an admission of the crime of sexual assault. The crime becomes more serious if there are allegations of forced sexual relations.
If a minor can be charged with sexual assault even while neither participant feels victimized, imagine if a highly emotional post surfaces on Facebook alleging sexual victimization. In some instances, ill feelings toward a boy/girlfriend in the wake of a “breakup” can bring on emotionally charged posts. In that case, a minor can claim forced sex, whether it happened or not, as an act of revenge. A post like that has serious implications. By suggesting that a minor was sexually victimized by another minor, even if the act was presumed consensual at the time, it becomes a statement of a crime. The authorities can use that post to press charges against the minor that is deemed the “perpetrator.” The social media statement becomes evidence the authorities can and will use. Once the child is charged with a crime, the parents are placed in an uncertain predicament of legal troubles. Many parents ask, “What will happen next?”
The accused minor of this crime be caught in a legal whirlwind. He or she will be charged with a felony crime, taken into custody and interviewed by the police. A child should never be interviewed by authorities without a lawyer present – not ever! The interview can be conducted at an attorney’s office so it is in the best interest of the parents to retain an attorney quickly. The lawyer should have juvenile criminal experience, as well. During the judicial process, a seasoned, criminal attorney will bring representation throughout the case. Every case is different and has unique circumstances surrounding it. A good juvenile criminal lawyer will investigate the case and create trial strategies for better defense in the courtroom. This is extremely important because a conviction of a juvenile sex crime can bring on negative social stigma, a criminal record, sentencing to a correction facility, and having the child’s name on the sex offender registration. The name will be held private until the convicted child becomes an adult, but once it is publically displayed on The Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry (PSOR), it will be difficult to obtain a job, scholarship, loan or housing. It may be hard to believe that one simple social media post can cause that kind of damage to a child’s life; however, it can do just that.
All it takes is one post on social media to incriminate a minor and negatively affect the child’s future. The end of social media is not in sight so parents must take heed of its possible effects on their children. The current Michigan Statutory Laws can incriminate your child below the age of legal age of consent if a post on Facebook states he/she has engaged in sex with another minor under the age of 16. Social media can play in your child being accused of a crime. The bottom line: make sure your children know their actions in a relationship can be publicized and lead to legal trouble. Teach them to make good choices when posting to a site. Leave out the bullying, and rude comments. Always think twice before you hit enter.