A ruling this month by a Canadian court illustrates just how important the role of parents is in monitoring and controlling what teens do online.
In the case, an 18-year-old Nova Scotia male (who was 17 at the time of the charges) pleaded guilty to sexual assault, mischief and assault with a weapon on an ex-girlfriend and an unnamed male, but was also guilty of sending numerous threatening messages via social media. As part of the sentencing, he has been banned from using social media, and the social media ban is reportedly the first of its kind in Canada.
The teen is obviously troubled, having been convicted 14 previous times for theft and assault. The details of the case are grisly, and don’t leave much to the imagination.
“The assault with a knife involved another male and occurred at a local high school. The teen put the knife to the neck of another student and pondered aloud whether he should kill him.
The sexual assault involved the former girlfriend after he accused her of cheating on him. In demanding sex, the teen touched the woman’s breasts and vagina despite her persistence that he stop.”
On the social media attacks:
“..repeated messages the teen sent his former love over a two-day period in December 2013. [The prosecutor] said the youth made 22 references for the girl to die or kill herself, 25 references to her being a pig, whore and a slut and 27 references, in one sentence alone, of her being a whore.”
In total, the sentence includes the following: six months of house arrest followed by 15 months of probation, a two-year ban on owning firearms and a 21 month ban on using social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). He was required to delete the accounts within 24 hours and hand the passwords over to a sentencing supervisor.
Whether the punishment for the real world assaults is just, and whether it will be a deterrent to future assaults, is anyone’s guess. In our opinion, the social media ban will not be effective.
First, there are plenty of social media sites and apps in addition to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He may choose to use another one. Second, shutting down existing accounts and handing over the passwords in no way prevents him from starting new accounts on those networks under an alias. All he needs is a new email address.
Short of putting him in jail with no access to electronics (we’re not advocating this, just pointing it out), the only way to effectively guarantee that he will not be digitally abusive is to hold a parent responsible for controlling his behavior – what electronics he can access and what he can do online. Since he is no longer a minor, that can’t happen. The authorities cannot effectively police what he does 24×7.
At the time of the online assaults, the perpetrator was 17. It sounds like at that point the parents had already lost control of what he was doing online. You don’t have to let that happen in your family.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.