Children “sexting” is considered pornography under Ohio law, even if it is from a minor child to another minor child. And, cyberbullying is a crime. Here’s what you need to know to protect your children.
New technology has a way of making everything faster and easier.
By “everything,” I mean everything.
Technology doesn’t just bring with it improved efficiency in the realm of positive and ground-breaking pursuits. Technology makes crime, lewd conduct, the dissemination of obscene or defamatory material, and incurring liability faster and easier, too.
Take, for example, “cyberbullying” and “sexting”: two terms that couldn’t have even been understood a decade ago, which now are hot-button issues that bring with them the possibility of one second, one click liability.
Here in Cincinnati, we have a relationship of national significance with both.
Jessica Logan was a Cincinnati teen who committed suicide following her ex-boyfriend disseminating obscene pictures via text (or “sexts”) to the student body, which then cyberbullied her.
In 2012, House Bill 116 (The Jessica Logan Act) was signed into law, which expanded protections against sexting and cyberbullying and required schools to undergo comprehensive reform of their school policies with regard to technological responsibility.
Outside of the increased scrutiny and school pressure to eradicate both, there legal implications to “hitting send” on obscene, defamatory or harassing material.
There are no current laws that specifically address sexting, so the Courts prosecute “sexters” under child pornography statutes (even when it’s a child sexting another child).
Think about that.
Your child could be prosecuted under the laws under which child pornographers are prosecuted.
It goes without saying that registering as a sex offender and possibility prison time are pretty formal consequences for something our kids take on so casually.
Cyberbullying, on the other hand, is specifically proscribed by law (and includes bullying by any electronic act) at R.C. § 3313.666. Cyberbullying could also fall within the telecommunications harassment and menacing by stalking categories (in any scenario, if the bullying is motivated by racial, gender, national origin, or disability discrimination – that offense could also be considered an enhanced “hate crime”).
It’s also worth noting that in both statutory schemes, there are requirements for parents of children involved in this type of behavior that every parent should know.
Over and above criminal sanctions, one-click civil liability is even more likely in a civil setting.
If you think about the Jessica Logan situation, had your child been the one, who in a rage publicly disseminated obscene photos of his ex-girlfriend to berate her (and heaven forbid she injure herself or commit suicide as a result), he is bringing into play the following claims:
- Intentional infliction of emotional distress
- Invasion of privacy
- Child pornography
- Wrongful death
Did you see that these damages included the death of another person?
One click and your child has done serious damage to their career and future.
What To Do If Your Child Is A Victim Of Sexting Or Cyberbullying
If your child is the victim of this type of behavior over text or social media, according to http://www.stopbullying.gov/, he or she should immediately address the situation in a calm manner or try to laugh it off.
If that doesn’t work, simply don’t respond. Seek the assistance of school officials or parents. Your children should never have to feel threatened, or scared to take the appropriate action.
Responding with violence or internalizing to the point of psychological trauma are the worst possible outcomes. Parents and school officials need to be open resources and outlets for children to express their issues, which in turn will bring the best possible result.
Please take time to talk with your child today.
For more information how to prevent cyberbullying, please visit http://www.stopbullying.gov/, or http://www.stompoutbullying.org/.
If I can help you or your family, email me or give me a call.