Facebook Alibis Are Child’s Play

An apparent first in the U.S. legal system hit headlines last week when charges against a boy accused of robbery were dropped primarily because of a Facebook update. As reported by The New York Times, when accused teen Rodney Bradford's defense lawyer, Robert Reuland, told a Brooklyn assistant district attorney about the teen's Facebook entry made at the time of the robbery, the district attorney subpoenaed Facebook to verify that the words had been typed from a computer at his father's apartment. Update confirmed. Charges dropped.

But perhaps more surprising was Mr. Reuland's out-of-hand dismissal of the possibility a teen such as his client might convince a friend to post an update at a specified time to provide an alibi. “This implies a level of criminal genius that you would not expect from a young boy like this; he is not Dr. Evil,” Reuland said, adding that the Facebook entry was just “icing on the cake,” since his client had other witnesses who provided an alibi. Other witnesses were the teen's father and stepmother.

Today's common tech devices could offer corroboration or contradiction. A quick text to a friend to prompt a planned update on a Facebook account, which requires only a user name and password, is not a feat of genius. Were cell phone records checked? Did the teen make a phone call, or far more likely in today's world of communication, send a text message, to a friend during this time? Today's kids have mastered their devices, and their proficiency exceeds adults' expectations.

The age for tech competency is the inverse of the accepted age for business or academic expertise. Historically, age has been a requirement for top-level jobs, whether by statute or accepted social norm.

To serve as president of the United States, candidates must be 35, in Italy a presidentail candidate must be 50. But some of tech's biggest contributors got their start in their teens. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook as a freshman at Harvard, was named one of The World's Most Influential People 2008 by Time, Inc. at the age of 24. By the age of 17, Bill Gates had written and sold his first computer program, and filed the trade name Microsoft at the age of 21.

And even if they're not creating revolutionary tech, kids have got the devices down. From setting up the Blu-ray player to installing Windows 7, it's the teen in a family who parents turn to.

A survey released by CTIA The Wireless Association and Harris Interactive provides some eye-opening facts about the resourcefulness of teens with their cell phones: 47 percent of teens reported they can text with their eyes closed. I've seen it in action. My rule is no cell phones at the dinner table, but it's not unusual to see one of the kids using only one hand to eat, while the other remains out of sight under the table. While reading a response takes a two second surreptitious glance to the lap, typing can be done without looking, and sometimes while talking. If caught, the penalty is a plate whisked off the table, and no dessert.

Texting has become more than a Miss Manners infraction. Last week, Common Sense Media released a poll reporting 35 percent of teens use their cell phones to cheat in the classroom. They text each other to ask questions and provide answers on tests, use a quick online search or an online service like ChaCha to get answers.

If texting were no longer an option, 47 percent of teens say their social life would end or be worsened. When Facebook and other social networking updates are investigated more thoroughly rather than taken at face value, texting could indeed prove devastating. Tough to have a social life in jail.

If Facebook updates and other online communication hold up in court, justice may be at risk. Consider: If someone else posts an insider stock tip on your Facebook profile, will you be held responsible? The fallout could be far more damaging than your daughter's rival posting a nasty bit of gossip to get a date with her boyfriend.

Until personal computers and other consumer electronics are equipped with biometric security features like iris identification with a built-in web cam or palm scanning sensors, it is up to individuals to protect their logins and passwords. You shouldn't ask an acquaintance to log in to your bank account to pay a bill, nor should you give anyone access to your Facebook account.

This article was provided by TopTenREVIEWS.

Leslie Meredith
Leslie Meredith is a contributor to Live Science. She has a bachelor's degree from UCLA in psychology and has directed tourism and ski publications for the Salt Lake Visitor & Convention Bureau and managed promotions and events for Sunset Magazine.