Young people use the Internet as their primary tool of communication; they have their whole social lives on it.
They have phones connect to the Internet. They communicate via Facebook pages or MSN communications or Blackberry messaging services, and their whole lives are on display. What they don’t realize is that if they get involved in disruptive or even criminal behaviour, there’s now a record of it. I am now seeing trials and evidence led at trials that are all Internet related. We get Facebook pages and copies of chats, chat logs, and text message records. The records of young people talking after an incident can be used against them.
Young people have to be aware of the record that is being created by engaging in these methods of communication. They need to be aware that there is a record of their conversations and that these records can be used against them. Therefore, they should consider monitoring their behaviour accordingly. You can’t bully on the Internet. You can’t stalk someone if they’re resisting your advances or don’t want anything to do with you. Just because it’s an open medium, it doesn’t mean that it’s a medium in which people are free to do anything they want.
People have a tendency to let down their inhibitions and speak a little bit more freely when they are communicating online. A young person could expose his parents to a defamation lawsuit, libel or slander if the wrong thing is said or written about another person. So, even though it’s easy to communicate in that fashion, there’s a protocol and a certain code of conduct that must be adhered to when engaging in Internet communications.
Young people have to protect themselves and be very, very careful about how they can expose themselves to the dangers of what is a very new medium. One area that young people should be wary of is posting suggestive photographs on the Internet. It may seem like harmless fun, but there are criminals out there who search the Internet for the purpose of stalking young people, and such photographs can make those young people a target of serious crime.
There are still a lot of areas involving the Internet that are not fully developed, litigated or even regulated just yet. We’re all learning how to figure it out, how to monitor it, and how to deal with these problems in court, but make no mistake, the authorities, crown attorneys, and judges are looking at the Internet and often consider it as evidence that could be used against certain people for certain crimes. It’s a tool where people let their guard down and expose their lives for better or for worse. Some people put their whole lives online and then they do something wrong and the police now have evidence that they can use against that person to put them away in jail for a long time. If they’re under 18, young people are protected by the Youth Criminal Justice Act. But if they’re over 18, doing something they don’t think is a problem could land them in jail for a very long time.
If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Ottawa, Ontario Region, contact Engel and Associates.