For those of us who grew up without the Internet, our parents and teachers were the first to talk to us about the adult world. Subjects like sex, drugs and alcohol were most often first encountered through face-to-face conversations with adults and that is how we learned about the responsibilities that come with growing up and getting older.
Now, in the age of social media and instant connection to the Internet, the most common way a teenager learns about these things is on the device that many of them carry in their pocket. Many parents give their sons and daughters a smartphone for the purpose of being able to contact them and keep informed about their whereabouts. However, many do not realize they are also giving them the means to learn about very “adult things” without any warning about the potential consequences of their actions. Our lawyers have created a guide for parents to refer to when deciding whether or not a smartphone is right for their child.
What to Know Before You Buy
Before you decide to give your child the means to access information you believe they are not ready to have, you should be able to answer these questions:
- Do you want your child to have a phone for emergency situations only, or are you comfortable with them using it to communicate with friends?
- Have you discussed Internet safety with your child?
- Has your child demonstrated that he or she knows how to use the Internet for age-appropriate uses?
- How well does your child understand who and who not to communicate with, and what they should and should not share about themselves online?
Sexting and the Law
A recent study in the journal Pediatrics shows that the smartphone has become the new medium through which many modern teenagers are introduced to sex. 1 The study found that one in four teens reported that they have “sexted” (sending sexually explicit text messages or emails, with or without images), and the messages were often followed by actual sexual activity. While the study’s authors see this as an opportunity to talk to teenagers and promote healthy discussions about sex, there are potential serious legal problems for minors who share sexually explicit photos of other minors or themselves.
Many parents do not realize that child pornography is a crime that, in California, can be committed by adults and minors alike. Any person, regardless of age, who knowingly produces, possesses, distributes or receives child pornography, is potentially guilty of violating one or more California child pornography laws under California Penal Code Section 311. That means minors could face child pornography charges for sending sexually explicit images of themselves to other minors.
When the defendant is a minor, the case will likely be tried in juvenile court. However, some cases result in a minor being tried as an adult, including felony child pornography possession charges (Penal Code section 311.11(a)). A conviction could include detention in county juvenile hall, transfer to an Orange County jail facility upon reaching the age of 18 and mandatory lifetime sex offender registration upon release from custody.
Take the Time to Understand Parental Controls
Many smartphones come with built-in parental controls that prevent access to certain apps and features. For example, Apple’s iPhone has controls that can disable web browsing, application downloads and even the use of the camera. You can also restrict access to content based on age-appropriate ratings to restrict the downloading and viewing of explicit material from the Internet.
Additionally, many of the popular social media networks, such as Facebook and Instagram, have similar controls to restrict the type of content your child can post or view. Each site generally has instructions to guide you through the process of making your child’s experience with the Internet safer, whether he or she uses the web on a computer or a mobile device.
Monitor Your Child’s Use
Keep in mind that these controls are not foolproof and may not be able to stop all incoming explicit material. In many cases, sexually explicit images might be sent through text messages or email, which may or may not be blocked by parental controls. For this reason, it is never a bad idea to let your child know that, without warning, you may be inspecting the phone and that you can disable the phone at anytime if he or she does not follow the rules. Let your child know that many of these devices have a remote “kill” switch, which allows you to remotely turn off the phone from another device or laptop.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today for Help
If your child is facing criminal charges related to child pornography or other alleged criminal activity stemming from the use of a mobile device, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully defending people of all ages accused of child pornography crimes at both the state and federal levels. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney experienced in helping clients charged with violating California’s child pornography laws near you.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free, no obligation telephone consultation. We will be there when you call.