In the digital age, it seems that kids’ pranks are as likely to put them into handcuffs as into the hot seat in the principal’s office. Across the pond, a 17-year-old was arrested this week for sending “menacing tweets,” including one aimed at an Olympic diver. And in the Lone Star state, a 12-year-old and 13-year-old spent time in a juvenile detention center this month and face a possible felony charge for making a fake Facebook account for one of their classmates.
Being a ‘mean girl’ is fraught with more peril than when I was in middle school. From the Hood County News:
The Acton Middle School girls, ages 12 and 13, were accused of creating a fake Facebook page in the name of a classmate, according to Lieutenant Johnny Rose of the Hood County Sheriff’s Office. The page contained threats toward other students and “cultivated a bad reputation for the victim,” Rose said.
According to CBS DFW, the fake Facebook account was active for two months and had a “crass nickname” for the victim alongside a photo of an actress who looked like the then 11-year-old. So, at least they didn’t steal a photo of her. The victim didn’t find out about the fake account for two months because she herself wasn’t on Facebook. (Suspicious.)
The two girls have been detained in the Granbury Regional Juvenile Justice Center since their arrest, almost two weeks ago, according to officials.
In Texas, “online impersonation” has been a crime since 2009, notes MSNBC, as it is in quite a few states now. (So, yes kids, don’t try this at home.) And even if that’s not specifically a crime, prosecutors have found creative ways to go after people for creating Defacebook accounts. A New Jersey judgesentenced a woman to probation in March on identity theft charges after she created a fake account for an ex-boyfriend. And years ago, in the infamous Lori Drew case, prosecutors used an anti-hacking law that arguably makes it a crime to violate a site’s terms of service to prosecute Drew for creating a fake MySpace account to flirt with, and then harass, a young girl who eventually committed suicide.
Interestingly, it seems that in the Texas case the victim and her parents didn’t report the fake profile to Facebook (which usually takes these things down). Instead, CBS DFW reports that it’s still accessible to friends. A status update says, “This fictitious Facebook page has been seized by the Hood County Sheriff’s Office.”
The future prosecution of the two girls is shrouded in some mystery; details are being withheld from the press due to their young ages.
When I was a kid, my friends and I certainly did stupid and mean things. We sent nasty notes, sometimes “anonymously.” I’d make a phone call to a friend, while a second friend secretly listened in. We spread rumors. And there was the occasional opportunity to do something criminal, such as shoplifting at the mall. But now it seems that the stakes are higher, because those notes are sent publicly, or because the rumors are spread using a fake Facebook account, or because the spying is done with a secret webcam. Thanks to the digital age putting powerful technologies and easy publicity into all of our hands, there are so many new ways to get into trouble. And that goes for kids and adults alike.