Sometimes I’m asked about legal issues related to technology. There can be many struggles with technology, social media, and crime. An example involves the app Kik. Kik is a Canadian-based messaging app that can be popular with youth. If someone is grooming a youth in Pennsylvania using the Kik app, Pennsylvania law enforcement has to contact Kik and the Canadian law enforcement to deal with the issue. Then, if the perpetrator is in Australia, there are more legal loops to go through to resolve the situation. This is a simple example that I wanted to share to show that it’s often very difficult to navigate online threats towards our children. You can read a little more about Kik on this page.

I want to provide a resource for those needing guidance with legal issues related to technology. Here are a few of the few of the best thoughts from my friends in the legal/law enforcement world.

Hopefully you are able to find the right resource for your technology-related legal questions below. If you still have questions, contact some of the folks in the resources I have shared. They should be able to direct you in the right direction.


How Do I Start?

The first step you can take when dealing with a legal concern with technology is to contact the local police. This is the most direct way to connect to someone who has experience with the law and technology. Chances are they have already dealt with similar situations, so they may be able to help or point you in the right direction for next steps if needed.

You can also contact your county District Attorney’s office. They have law clerks that should be able to assist you. Here is a link to Pennsylvania’s DA by county.  A quick internet search will likely find a list by county for your state as well.  You can also contact your state Attorney General. Here is the link to the current Pennsylvania State Attorney General. Again, an internet search will find your representative outside of Pennsylvania.

Where to Report Online

If you need to know how to report abuse on various apps, the folks at the Cyberbullying Research Center have generated an ongoing list of where to report abuse. Search the particular app, gaming network you are dealing with and there will be links to where you can report the abuse. This is a wonderful resource for anyone needing to report online abuse.

Sexual Exploitation Online

If you believe a child is being sexually exploited online, the Nation Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a webpage where you can make a report. You can click the banner below to make a report.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) also has a computer program that can assist in finding and removing images that make it to the web. If a nude image of a child somehow makes its way to the internet, NCMEC may be able to help find and remove the image from any public sites. To learn more about this program you can watch this video. There is also a step-by-step guide on how to have an image removed from various sites/platforms.

The FBI also has a webpage dedicated to protecting children from online predators. There are many resources on that page.

missing image

Report It

If you think you have seen a missing child, or suspect a child may be sexually exploited, contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

Report Child sexual exploitation

Use the CyberTipline to report child sexual exploitation

Make a Cyberlink Report>>

School Administrators & Cell Phone Searches

Educators wanting to know when they can search cell phones can read this article. You can also read this article to learn about legal implications for educators and cell phone searches.

Youth Accessing the Dark Web

The Dark Web will be a curious place for teens. Not all activity on the Dark Web is illegal, but illegal activity can be found on the Dark Web.  Technically skilled kids will easily find their way to the Dark Web, and youth without the knowledge can easily find a friend who knows how.

If you suspect your child is accessing the Dark Web check their device(s), including cell phones and tablets and look for a Tor Browser. A Tor Browser on a laptop will look like an onion. A Tor app may look like an onion on an Apple device.

On an Android there are many different app icons. There are also Onion Browsers to look for. On an Apple they may look like a purple circle. Similar apps are available when you search “onion” in your Android app store. DuckDuckGo is also a privacy browser you should be aware of and look for. If your child has the app or is using the browser, they may be trying to hide activity from you.

Your child will need to use a Tor Browser to access the Dark Web.

Below is a brief video to explain how a Tor Browser works.

To better understand the difference between the Surface Web, Deep Web and Dark Web, the video below can help you.

If you find out your child is thinking about going to the Dark Web or has been accessing the Dark Web, McAfee has an excellent article with some talking points about how to have a conversation with your child about the dangers of the Dark Web.

Red Flags for Online Illegal Purchases

If your child is using Bitcoins for online purchases, please read up on the function of Bitcoins. While Bitcoins aren’t illegal, online purchases using Bitcoins can be illegal. What’s a Bitcoin and how does it work? Below is a fairly simple explanation.

Revenge Porn and Sextortion

Revenge Porn is defined as “the act of distributing intimate photography through different means without the individual’s consent,” by Dr. Patchin and Dr. Hinduja at The Cyberbullying Research Center. It is closely linked to Sextortion which is, “the threatened dissemination of explicit, intimate, or embarrassing images of a sexual nature without consent, usually for the purpose of procuring additional images, sexual acts, money, or something else,” also defined by Dr. Patchin and Dr. Hinduja. They have created some resources on the subjects. “Revenge Porn Research, Laws, and Help for Victims” can help you navigate steps to take if you or your child is the victim of Revenge Porn. “Sextortion Among Adolescents” has some excellent information into research on this subject.

Identity Theft

A child’s identity is a prime target for identity thieves. There are two main reasons why. First, a child’s credit will be clean, leaving an open door for applying for government benefits, opening credit cards, opening bank accounts, and a host of other actions. Second, a child’s identity theft may go unnoticed until they turn eighteen and start applying for college, loans, apartment background checks, etc. Larry Magid writes a nice piece about child identity theft on a blog entitled, “Identity Theft Can Hit Children Too.” I highly recommend you read this.

In the new age of technology and online crimes, I would recommend getting identity theft protection for yourself and your kids. I have it for myself, my wife, and my children. Lifelock Junior is the service that I currently use, however there are other good services out there such as Identity Guard, IDShield, and IdentityForce.  It’s a very low-cost investment that may save you time, headaches, and money in the future.


While cyberbullying can be a crime, and should be included in the Legal Resources section, I wanted to separate it and give more thoughts and resources at the Cyberbullying Resource on the website. Click here to read more about cyberbullying prevention resources.

Here is a blog to read more about cyberbullying and the law.

Training on Legal Issues

Finally, I wanted to provide a resource for training if you are an educational institution or professional entity working with youth. Erin Gilsbach is an attorney and is able to provide training to organizations around the best practices related to the law in education and technology. I’ve attended several of her trainings and she gives excellent guidance for your legal questions.