When Your Teen’s Bad Behavior Becomes A Crime: What Every Parent Should Know

As a parent, you love your teen and want to protect them, but sometimes that can mean protecting them from themselves. In an age where technology can blur the lines between right and wrong, it can be difficult to make sure your teenager is staying out of trouble, but some teenage behavior can be more than just troublesome; it could land your teen in jail. Here's what every parent and their teens need to know about the criminal consequences of some bad teenage behaviors.


Cyberbullying is a huge problem among teens. Because of the ease of anonymity and the lack of immediate consequences, it's easy for teens to get caught up in participating in this potentially lethal activity. Of course, teasing and taunting aren't anything new; there's always been a certain level of bullying in the offline world, but when it takes place online, there's a sinister undercurrent to it that could land your teen in serious trouble.

Bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment can all have serious legal consequences. In every US state, bullying is considered a crime, and in many states cyberbullying is, too. Teach your teens that bullying of any sort is more than just morally wrong. Let them know that it could find them facing criminal charges.


Sexting can be considered a form of cyberbullying, but even "consensual" sexting can have serious legal consequences for your teen. In fact, just having a sexually explicit photo of another teen on their phone could get your teen in serious trouble. Most states have very specific laws regarding the possession and distribution of images that are considered to be pornographic in nature, especially if the photographs are of a minor.

What should your teen do if they receive images that are sexual in nature? Let them know that they need to delete the image, never share it. Sharing an explicit image could carry serious legal consequences, even jail time. If your teen is being pressured to take or send sexual photos of themselves, make sure they know what the legal ramifications could be.

Underage drinking

Teens and parties go hand in hand, but parents need to be aware of the consequences when alcohol is involved. If your teen engages in underage drinking and gets caught by the police, they could face more than just a slap on the wrist. Furthermore, teens who buy and supply alcoholic beverages to other teens could face charges for supplying alcohol to a minor. The laws vary from state to state, and there are some exceptions, but it's best to point out to teens that the legal drinking age in the US is 21. 

Parents should also note that they could get in serious trouble if they provide alcohol to their minor children or their friends. If there's any doubt about this, it's best to err on the side of caution and avoid having alcohol at house parties that will be attended by minors. 

If your teen gets into trouble with the law

Parents and teens should both know their rights and responsibilities in the event that a teen is arrested for doing something that is unlawful. Because laws can vary from state to state, the first thing you should do is talk to a lawyer. Because of the complicated laws involving teens and everything from drinking to bullying, it's a good idea to have the number of a good criminal defense attorney on hand even if your child has never been in trouble at all. Parents often underestimate the types of situations that can lead to legal problems for teens, so having a reliable attorney who can answer your questions could mean the difference between teens facing minor punishments and teens facing jail time.

Teens today face a whole set of issues and legal challenges that their parents didn't have to deal with, and with laws changing all the time, it can be hard to know what will or won't get teens into serious legal trouble. If parents take the time to learn their teens' rights and responsibilities, they could help them stay safe from their own behaviors.