In the past we have written that Wisconsin authorities take a particularly hard-line stance in two key areas: sex crimes and juvenile crimes. The age limit for juvenile delinquency in Wisconsin was lowered to just 10 years old, which is among the lowest in the nation.
Unfortunately, the internet and social media have created the conditions for juvenile crimes and sex crimes to mix. A recent case shows that kids as young as 12 are being convicted for illegal internet activity.
Earlier this month, a 12-year-old girl from the Seattle area was convicted of felony computer trespassing and misdemeanor cyber-stalking. She and an 11-year-old friend were accused of hacking a classmate's Facebook account and posting sexually explicit material.
According to court documents, the two middle school girls hacked the victim's Facebook account and posted lewd photos. One of these photos showed the victim with a bloody knife digitally imposed on her head. The two defendants also allegedly used the victim's computer address to send out sexual solicitations while posing as her.
As adults, it is easy for us to see the seriousness of these actions, as well as the grave consequences they carry. However, children this young often have more computer literacy than emotional maturity.
Court documents show that the two defendants were friends with the victim until a recent fight or argument caused a "falling out." It was clear from the 12-year-old's apology that she was unaware of the seriousness of her actions.
At her sentencing, she said: "If I could just go back, I would change everything. I'm sorry."
Thankfully, the juvenile court judge was lenient. The girl was sentenced to six months probation and 20 hours of community service. If she successfully completes these actions, her case will be dismissed. Her 11-year-old friend is expected to be sentenced to community service.
Source: Thomson Reuters Westlaw News, "Girl, 12, gets probation in cyber-stalking case," Laura L. Myers, 13 July 2011