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When does an online conversation with a minor cross a line?

Online conversations can turn from innocent to nefarious when gifts are offered, meetings are requested, lies are told or sexual subjects are brought up.

Colorado residents of all ages use online social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. The ease of communication allows users to make contact and have conversations without thinking about potential ramifications. Innocent conversations can turn sexual with a few simple keystrokes, which is why adults need to be hypersensitive to the factors that take an online conversation from okay to illegal. The National Sex Offender Public Website states that 13 percent of minors receive sexual solicitations while online. Of those incidents, 27 percent included a request for a photograph of the youth.

Offering gifts

Giving a gift may not seem like a predatory action. However, many adults looking for youthful companionship online build a relationship by giving the child gifts of toys or money. In fact, 47 percent of internet-initiated sex crimes included some sort of gift-giving early in the relationship.

Requesting to meet in person

Not all online conversations between an adult and a child are bad. For example, the two parties can discuss favorite hobbies and subjects in school without raising any concerns. An interaction can start to cross the line when the adult asks the minor to meet somewhere in person. This is especially true when the two people are strangers or when the adult asks the child to not tell his or her parents. Meetups themselves are not necessarily bad, but 93 percent of meetings that took place between an adult and a minor who met online included sexual contact.

Lying about identity

Similarly, if a person has to lie about his or her identity, it is usually not a sign of an appropriate conversation. The adult may pretend to be the same age as the minor to get him or her to interact, but this lie is not as common as one might think. In fact, only 5 percent of adults told children they were in the same age bracket. Even smaller fabrications about employment or a living situation could take an innocent interaction to the dark side.

Turning to provocative subjects

If the conversation turns from the current school year to playing in a bikini, it could be getting out of hand. The issue is that provocative subjects do not have to be explicitly sexual. For example, if the adult asks the underage person to discuss a wardrobe malfunction which resulted in exposure, it could be considered sexually charged conversation. Other subjects that could be considered provocative include the minor’s changing body or kissing experience.

Not all online conversations between an adult and a minor in Colorado can be classified as predatory. If a person is accused of a sexual crime, it may be beneficial to work with an attorney who is familiar with this type of case.