Eric Goldman writes:
This is a story of four teenage girls and one teenage boy. The girls use the aliases “7Up” (a/k/a JP, the defendant in this case), “Lady Gaga,” “Dream Ruiner,” and “Me.” The boy, called S, allegedly engaged in anti-social behavior towards some of the girls (pushing their books off their desks and calling one of them “fat” and “gay”). The trial judge thought S did this in a misguided play for affection. Unbeknownst to the other girls, “Me” considered S a friend.
You can probably guess where this is going. Eric provides examples of the chats and what happened next when a parent found out and the school referred the matter to law enforcement. Keep in mind that the participants in the chat did not expect the chat to ever be shared with anyone outside of what they thought was their private circle.
Prosecuting Teens for Online Misbehavior. As the court notes, “Young teenagers sometimes make poor judgments born of impetuosity, immaturity, and an inability to foresee the painful consequences of their actions.” Yet, sometimes these juvenile mistakes create adult-like consequences. How should we deal with these mistakes? Should we punish teens for lacking the wisdom of adults, or should we view those as teachable moments with the opportunity for growth and redemption? Prosecutors sometimes choose the former, with potentially devastating results for the defendants.
The Michigan case in question, People v. JP, is just one of a number of cases Eric mentions in this post. I would encourage all parents and educators to read his full post and use it as a conversation starter — for conversations about what school policies should be, and for conversations with your children about how their “private” communications are not as private as they might think and how their might be serious legal consequences.