Your Kids, the Internet, and the Law
Summary Your kids’ online actions can have serious legal consequences.
Not long ago, life was more simple. Parents worried about their kids hitting a baseball through the neighbor’s window or swiping a candy bar from the corner store. Sounds quaint, doesn’t it?
The Internet has given our children much farther reach. It has also provided access to powerful tools, some of which can seriously harm other people. And when kids do cause harm, they’re not necessarily the only ones held responsible. Parents and guardians may also end up liable.
How kids can get in trouble online
Pirating music and software — It’s easy for kids to download copyrighted music and movies, or to make illegal copies of software. These activities are the equivalent of stealing, and as the music industry has demonstrated, the owners of copyrighted materials are not afraid to sue for infringement.
Libel and defamation — Sites like My Space® give kids and teens a big stage for self-expression, and they’re not shy about using it. In some instances, however, they take things too far, using these sites to attack peers or authority figures. These attacks can sometimes amount to libel or defamation.
Virus writing — Kids have been known to hole up in their rooms and write computer viruses. Some release them into the world. In one case, a teen wrote a worm that caused widespread disruption on the Internet. He ended up being convicted and sentenced under criminal laws.
Credit card abuse — Stealing money from your purse is one thing. Swiping a credit card and going on an online shopping spree takes it to a whole other level. And whether they’re buying music or games or clothes, running up debt in another person’s name (even if it’s a parent’s) is technically identity theft and fraud.
Online con games — Just as kids can buy things they can’t pay for, they can also try to sell things they don’t have. For example, it’s fairly easy to open an online auction account, take a picture of a neighbor’s bicycle, and then offer to sell it online—fully intending to pocket the money and virtually “skip town.”
Reprinted with permission from Symantec. ©1995 - 2008 Symantec Corporation
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