Prosecutor Speaks on Dangers of Sexting, Bullying and… (video)

Prosecutor Speaks on Dangers of Sexting, Bullying and other Crimes (video)Candlewickshop_May2014

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 31, 2014)

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper does not like seeing kids on a professional basis, whether it’s because they have gotten in trouble or because they are a victim. The internet and cell phones make it easy for young people to end up being either. That’s why Cooper has given over 300 presentations to school groups about the laws associated with the technology so many kids use.

On Oct. 29 she spoke to students at Abbott Middle School in West Bloomfield. Among the topics were bullying, privacy, predators, and why sexting is such a serious crime.

“I like to come talk to you. Why? I like to look you in the eye,” Cooper said. “The point of this is if I look you in the eye and I’m mad at you and I want to say something really bad, it would be very hard. It’d be hard because I have to look at you face to face. So what happens on the computer or the cell royal_servicesphone or when we text, you don’t have to look somebody in the eye. When you don’t have to look somebody in the eye…we do things that you wouldn’t ordinarily do. If I said something that made you unhappy, I could see it on your face that you were unhappy and I would probably stop.”

Bullying and harassment with phones and computers happen because students – and even adults – feel less responsibility for the messages they send. But bullying and harassment have serious consequences – both personal and legal. People can be charged with harassment for the things they say through technology. It can also ruin people’s lives.

“When you tease people unmercifully, you don’t know your victim,” Cooper said. “Samantha Kelly was a young girl who had a terrible thing happen to her. She alleged that she was raped. Half the seed029_keyser_familyschool believed her and the other half didn’t believe her. And the half that didn’t believe her teased her. They harassed her. They sent her messages. They called her names. The did all these things we talk about that you can’t do, and you know what? She couldn’t take it and eventually she killed herself.

“Every month I have to go through something called child death review. That’s when somebody under the age of 18 dies of unnatural causes. Every month in Oakland County there is a teen suicide and some of those come out of middle school,” she said.

When young people go online there are also risks coming from adults. Cooper warned that strangers can find them on Facebook, learn about their interests, and target them by using fake profiles. There are even adults who like to trick young people into doing things they are ashamed of and Judy_Palmer30yearsblackmailing them.

Sometimes strangers goad young people into inappropriate conversations and pictures. Other times young people do this amongst themselves. Either way the consequences can be emotionally hard and illegal. “When you take a picture and that picture is an inappropriate picture, when it’s a picture of somebody who’s nude, male or female, when you put it out on that computer or on that phone…if it involves somebody under the age of 18, the legislature considers this sexually explicit child pornography,” Cooper said.

The law has harsh consequences for people who create, solicit, possess or disseminate child porn. This applies even to teenagers who take pictures for themselves or for their boyfriend or girlfriend.

Cooper shared the story of another teen who took her own life after being overwhelmed by a hard modern natural baby inprogresssituation. “Jessica Logan is a young woman who was in love with her boyfriend. She had a long term relationship with him and they broke up. During the time of the relationship she sent him very private pictures. And when they broke up, he sent those pictures everywhere.”

Cooper noted that nothing is private and that no one should be trusted with personal information or photos because you never know what can happen. Even deleting questionable posts, emails, texts and photos does not make them go away. “You never know if someone else takes a picture of it or not,” Cooper said. She said that just because someone deletes something off a device does not mean it is really gone. Her department has experts who specialize in retrieving “deleted” information off phones and computers.

To learn more about technology laws and safety, watch Cooper’s presentation below:

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