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Juvenile Cyber Delinquency Evaluation of legal implications

Harshal Morwale,
3 year Law Student,
S.N.G. Law College, Akola
rd

Abstract: This paper looks into legal implications of juvenile cyber delinquency. Teenagers
today are quick learners of computer technology and juvenile cyber delinquency is an
increasing problem. This paper evaluates theoretical aspects of juvenile cyber offences. This
paper draws upon a darker side of cyber world Cyber Suicide. Paper concentrates more on
cyber suicides abetted by juveniles and cyber suicides committed by juveniles. Aspects
explored are then compared with the theory of functional equivalence. This paper also gives
some suggestions to control this alarming rate of juvenile cyber delinquency.

I.

Introduction
Everyone knows that kids generally take to computers more quickly and easily than
their elders. Today's children grow up with access to computers - and not just
standalone computers but computers that are networked to the rest of the world
through the Internet. Many of them love to explore and experiment, as children have
always done; that's an important element in learning.1 Kids have that curiosity which
acts as their driving force. But sometimes, their curiosity in exploring cyber space
without proper guidance can make them juvenile cyber delinquents.
A.

What is cyber delinquency?


Basically it is criminal activity carried out by means of computers or the
Internet. The word delinquency is used with a reference to juvenile justice law.
The criminal justice system, not just in India but in entire world has faced the
dilemma of what to do when the offenders are minors. In India, a separate
juvenile justice system exists with its own courts and rehabilitation facilities as
juveniles cannot be jailed. When a juvenile commits a crime, it is not called a
crime it is called delinquent conduct. This explains why we cant refer cyber
offences committed by juveniles as cyber crime but cyber delinquency.

Deb Shinder, 'Juvenile cyber-delinquency: Laws that are turning kids into criminals' (TechRepublic, February
6, 2012) <http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/it-security/juvenile-cyber-delinquency-laws-that-are-turning-kidsinto-criminals/> [Cyber-delinquency]

B.

Juvenile Cyber Delinquency


There are several types of cyber offences committed by juveniles, which
include cyber theft, digital piracy, cyber bullying, cyber suicide, etc. Some of
these offences are petty but sometimes the offences are very serious which can
result in great financial losses, spoil that juveniles future and even hurt the
states interest. This paper mainly evaluates factors leading these juveniles to
commit such delinquent acts and presents a conclusion with some suggestions.

II.

Theoretical evaluation of Cyber related offences by Juveniles


In last decade, computers have created a great new world around teenagers. They can
use it for many purposes spanning from entertainment to studies, travel to food
everything is easily accessible with the help of computer and internet. With rise of
utility of computer, computer crimes have become an increasingly popular alternative
to traditional crimes committed by juveniles. But the motivation for committing such
crimes may not be significantly different from traditional delinquency. Furthermore,
on computers juveniles are able to commit crimes that are disproportionately serious
to their age.2
A.

Juvenile offence as a cost benefit analysis


According to rational choice theory designed by Cornish and Clarke, an
offender first weighs the benefits of the crime against the punishment (if
caught), and then decides to commit a particular offense. Unlike adults, who
are ultimately responsible for their own actions, juveniles are drawn in many
directions. Some juvenile crimes are based on impulse, others are
premeditated. Juveniles committing cyber related offences may not even
consider the pros and cons, and may act on impulse, failing to realize how
wrong their decision could be. They fail to believe that computer crimes are
actually crimes. For example Digital Piracy- sharing and/or downloading of
software and digital music and movies without the permission of the copyright
holder. Kids dont consider theres something wrong with stealing songs from
the internet. Traditionally, the crime of theft involved "unlawfully
appropriately property without the effect consent of the owner, with the intent
to deprive the owner of the use of the property." When you download a copy

Edward Girard, Juvenile Cybercrime: Theoretical and Legal Implications. in Barbara Sims and Pamela Preston
(eds), Handbook of Juvenile Justice- Theory and Practice (Taylor and Francis, New York 2006) [Handbook]

of a song, you don't deprive the owner of the use of that song, as you do when
you steal a tangible item.3
B.

Influence of peers
Juvenile delinquency can be caused by a combination of family, peer, and
community influence. Association with like-minded individuals is not
restricted to close contacts but also occurs through online association via
internet. They meet on forums or on social networking and then they learn to
manipulate a computer to their benefit through experience with other people of
their age who do the same.4

III.

Cyber Suicide and Juveniles


Suicide is among the top three causes of death among youth worldwide. The emerging
phenomenon of cyber-suicide in the internet era is a further cause for concern; also
because the use of new methods of suicide are associated with epidemic increases in
overall suicide rates.5 Cyber suicide is an increasing problem among the teenagers
across the world including India.
A.

What is cyber suicide?


Cyber suicide is a slang term used to describe a suicide or suicide attempt that
has been influenced by Web sites on the Internet. Cyber suicide is usually
denoted by a public showing of the suicide or suicide attempt when the victim
uses a Webcam to record the suicide attempt or provides a detailed discussion
of their own suicide plans on public suicide-oriented Web sites and forums.6

B.

Juvenile Cyber Suicides


Cyber suicide is one of the major threats that can be possible in this virtual
world. Trusting someone in cyber world is one of the major issues that the
new generation is taking into the trend without realizing the consequences
after that. It is really very sad to say that how easily people trust in with the
virtual world person without knowing the exact identity and acting on behalf
of it. Its just like considering someone so close and emotionally attached so

Cyber-delinquency, supra note 1


Handbook, supra note 3
5
R Radhakrishnan and C Andrade, 'Suicide: An Indian perspective' [2012] 54(4) Indian Journal of Psychiatry
<http://dx.doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.104793> accessed 23 August 2015
6
Webopedia, '' (What is cybersuicide? A Webopedia Definition, )
<http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/C/cybersuicide.html> accessed 23 August 2015
4

that they dont even consider their life for that. They even forget their real life
and the persons related to them such as their parents or relative and trusting on
the users who are anonymous or partially known.7 Juveniles are sometimes
encouraged to commit cyber suicide on forums and social networking,
sometimes juveniles are the ones encouraging others to commit cyber suicide.
Throughout the last decade there have been more tragic examples of this kind,
such as those in India (2004 and 2008), Britain (2007), and Florida (2008).
This excludes the numerous online suicide cases without any use of webcameras, as well as those offline cases where the mobile camera devices (as
in cell phones) were used without any Internet assistance.8
C.

Necessity of prevention law for cyber suicide involving minors


In India, attempt to commit suicide and abetting suicide both are criminal
offences. According to Sec. 309 of Indian Penal Code, Whoever attempts to
commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence shall
be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one
year. (Or with fine, or with both).9 The situation is different when the person
attempting or threatening suicide is a minor. Juveniles are legally incapable of
making an informed decision to end their lives. Law enforcements wants to
help these juveniles but lack of legislation which comes in the way. Now there
are two options either there needs to be cyber suicide prevention law
especially for minors or we can use functional equivalence approach.
1.

Considering the option that we need new cyber-suicide prevention and

investigation law, heres some draft language from the blog post by Dr. Frank
KardaszElectronic Communications Emergency Exception Regarding Threatened
Suicide Involving Minors If, while using electronic communications a person
identifying himself as a minor threatens suicide, law enforcement may request
subscriber information about the person from electronic communications
service providers (also known as Internet service providers). The electronic
communications service providers will provide subscriber information about
7

Animesh Kumar, 'Cyber Suicide: The Darker Side of Cyberspace' (Animesh Kumar, February 26, 2014)
<http://animeshkumarr.blogspot.in/2014/02/cyber-suicide-darker-side-of-cyberspace.html> accessed 23 August
2015
8
Stamenkovic, Marko. 2012. In Full View: Cybersuicide, Hypervisual Self and Public Showcase of Death (for
Real). Ed. Mimo Drakovi. Medijski Dijalozi 5 (12): 73101
9
Indian Penal Code, 1860 Sec. 309

the person threatening suicide when law enforcement states that there is
reasonable suspicion to believe that the suicidal person is a minor. Internet
service providers and electronics communications providers doing business in
(name

2.

your

jurisdiction)

are

required

to

comply.10

But how to try a juvenile who attempts to commit or abets cyber-

suicide? Thats where approach of functional equivalence comes in and its


relevance to Indian Penal Code and other substantial and procedural laws. In
India if a juvenile attempts to commit cyber suicide, section 15 of Juvenile
Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 is competent enough to
give him appropriate punishment. But what if a juvenile abets a cyber suicide?
This part is further discussed with reference to functional equivalence and
Indian Penal Code.

D.

Functional Equivalence - Juvenile Cyber Offences and Indian Penal Code


If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide,
shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which
may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. 11 Now if someone
abets to commit a cyber suicide, according to theory of functional equivalence
they are tried under section 306 of Indian Penal Code. But if the person
abetting cyber suicide is a minor, then under present Juvenile Justice System
that person gets away with a mild reprimand. But with Juvenile Justice (Care
and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 around the corner, we can hope if the
juveniles are culpable of committing such acts and understand its
consequences then they can be transferred to regular criminal justice system
and tried like a regular criminal. Although, still its not guaranteed because the
bill does not include specifications for section 306 at the moment, but similar
reforms are expected in near future.

10

Frank Kardasz, 'Cyber-assisted suicide prevention law is needed' (Dr Frank Kardasz (EdD), November 22,
2008) <http://kardasz.blogspot.in/2008/11/cyber-assisted-suicide-prevention-law.html> accessed 23 August
2015
11
Indian Penal Code 1860 Sec.306

IV.

Suggestions to control alarming rate of Juvenile Cyber Delinquency

Juvenile cyber crime is increasing at an alarming rate and is threat for development of
upcoming generation. There was a poll on tech republic blog on How should we deal with
juvenile cybercrime issues?12 Results are presented below.
Below chart presents results in pie chart format-

A.

Widespread Education
Education can be an effective way to create an environment of zero tolerance
towards cyber bullying and other cyber delinquent acts. Young people
especially juveniles need to be taught the legal and ethical rules of the internet,
as well as how to use the internet responsibly. Currently, most children do not
view cybercrime in the same light as crime in the physical world, and they
need to understand that illegal actions online carry real consequences and
cause large scale emotional and financial costs to victims.13

B.

Government organized contests targeting teens


The UK and US have also adopted much more specific initiatives to reduce
the instances of youth cybercrime. Targeting teens with highly technical skills,
the two governments created a contest aimed to test the skills of young
hackers and to attract them to the idea of using their skills for positive

12

Cyber-delinquency, supra note 1


Andrew Dornbierer, 'High School Cybercriminals Wreaking Havoc' (Freedom From Fear Magazine)
<http://f3magazine.unicri.it/?p=88> accessed 23 August 2015[F3 Magazine]
13

purposes, rather than becoming cybercriminals. In one of the US challenges,


competitors were required to analyse a hard drive to find evidence to convict
criminals, while in another they had to defend a network from attacks. One
eventual contest winner earned bonus points by breaking into the contest
scoring system and awarding himself 10,000 extra points. The aim of the
programme was to encourage young hackers to consider careers in internet
security, either for the government or private corporations, rather than using
their skills for criminal motivations.14

V.

Conclusion
If we brand children as criminals, because of common and relatively normal deviant
behavior, we create a generation in which criminality becomes the norm. Perhaps the
juvenile cybercrime problem will push us to finally re-examine our entire criminal
justice system and how it just grew that way.15 Unless successful and widespread
initiatives are implemented soon, the number of young people willing to commit
online crime will continue to increase just as drastically. 16 Also, when we were
evaluating theoretical aspects of juvenile cyber delinquency, we discussed several
theories to find a main cause behind juveniles committing such acts. But not a single
theory could explain juvenile cyber delinquency entirely. Finally we can conclude that
an integrated theory of all discussed theories may be the most appropriate in
explaining cybercrime. Juveniles with strong social bonds have high degree of
commitment to societal norms. Juvenile in this category is part of conventional peer
groups and less probable to commit cyber related offence. On the other hand, the
juveniles with low weak social bonds are more probable to commit cyber delinquency
because of the social isolation and connection to delinquent peers. We should promote
harmony in the family to ensure that child doesnt become part of delinquent peer
groups. Empty mind is devils workshop. Parent should engage children in
constructive work so that there will be no juvenile delinquency. To quote Bob Fellar,
My father kept me busy from dawn to dusk when I was a kid. When I wasn't pitching
hay, hauling corn or running a tractor, I was heaving a baseball into his mitt behind
the barn... If all the parents in the country followed his rule, juvenile delinquency
would be cut in half in a year's time.

14

Ibid.
Cyber-delinquency, supra note 1
16
F3 Magazine, supra note 13
15