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Digital peer pressure and teen crime

Author: Shelby Warden
Published: Oct 21 2012

Parents had much to contend with twenty years ago before the Internet was ever an issue. Behaviors like bullying and substance abuse were out in the open yet still hard to deal with. The invention of the World Wide Web has now made it even easier for children to be influenced to behave negatively even while they’re sitting at home.

Research is showing that online peer pressure is leading children and teenagers to engage in behaviors that can be hidden from parents, and if guardians don’t know what to look out for, the results can sometimes be detrimental.

Peer Pressure Leading to Cybercrime and other Illegal Activities

Columbia University researchers perform a yearly “back-to-school” survey for kids and teens to see what types of behaviors children are engaged in. The 2012 survey found the existence of drug and alcohol use amongst teens as was expected, but further results showed the extent of the influence that digital peer pressure can have.

The researchers in this study found that seventy-five percent of teenagers surveyed reported that seeing pictures of other teens drinking and doing drugs on social media sites influenced them to do the same. This of course doesn’t mean that the teens were following these behaviors, but further questions found that minors who saw these pictures were four times likelier to have tried marijuana, nearly three times likelier to have tried tobacco products and over three times more likely to have tried alcohol. These behaviors are definitely not the only ones exhibited though.

A study in the American Journal of Criminal Justice found that teens who socialized with individuals who commit cyber crimes were far more likely to commit these crimes themselves. These crimes included cyber-bullying, online piracy, hacking and downloading virtual pornography (illegal for minors under eighteen). These behaviors were most prominent in children who also lacked self-control. All of these behaviors need to be closely monitored by parents.

Keeping an Eye out for Trouble

The Internet can pose serious problems for teenagers. Some teens may be involved or encouraged to be involved in illegal or immoral behaviors; while other teens may be suffering unrelenting cyber-bullying. According to our North Carolina dwi attorney who has defended teens accused of a variety of crimes, there are certain signs that every parent should watch for to catch possible trouble in its early stages.

- Change in Behavior
Children who are being cyber-bullied will likely start to display abnormal behaviors. Watch out for social withdrawal, self-hating behaviors and failing grades.

- Hiding Data Devices
Teenagers will often keep things that they don’t want their parents to see on CDs, disks, flash drives or password protected user profiles. Take notice if a teen is hiding these devices and demand access to them.

- Browser History Emptied
Kids are very tech savvy these days, so they know that their parents can see what sites they’ve been to via the browser history. If a teen has deleted all of this old information, they are likely hiding something.

- Quick Change
Kids who are up to no good on the Internet will quickly try to change screens when their parent enters the room. Don’t fall for this.

- Learn Internet Slang
Teens are becoming more creative in hiding conversations from their parents. Certain slang terms can alert a child’s online friends when their parents are around; which shows that they’re likely talking about something they have no business doing. PAW means ‘parents are watching’, MOS means ‘mom over shoulder’ and CD9 is short for ‘code 9’. ‘Code 9’ signifies that a teen’s parents are around. Watch out for any of these terms.

Internet behavior such as cyber-bullying has led to the deaths of Tyler Clementi, Megan Meier and likely several other young teenagers. Of all cyber behavior, cyber-bullying should be closely monitored to prevent heartbreaking events.

The modern technological world has definitely made the jobs of parents far more complicated. Children can be bullied or commit bullying online without the instances ever being noticed by parents. There have been several cases where this has ended tragically for certain families. Cyber-bullying, hacking or any type of illegal activity can lead to serious legal problems for a teenager, and some consequences can go far beyond legal trouble. It is a parent’s job to ensure that their child is safe and refrains from illegal behavior, and the Internet has made this a bigger task than it ever has been before.

Shelby Warden is a legal researcher and mother of two who pays special attention to laws that help to protect children. She is also a contributing author for the North Carolina dwi attorney team at Powers McCartan. Their criminal defense attorneys realize that when a teen is arrested, it can drastically alter their future plans. If your child is accused of a crime in North Carolina, contact the experts at Powers McCartan to aggressively fight to protect their rights.

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