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Teens making online threats; Experts say they don't realize the serious consequences

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(COLUMBIA, SC) WACH--Over the last few weeks, several local teens have been arrested after being accused of making threats online. The punishment can be serious, and experts say young people don't seem to realize it. The wrong message in Facebook posts, Tweets and Snapchats could lead to jail time.

In just the past month, Richland County deputies have arrested a 14-year old accused of creating a fake internet profile to harass other students. A 16-year-old is charged with threatening to blow up Columbia High School in a Facebook post. Finally, a 17-year-old was arrested after deputies say he used Facebook to say he would shoot up Lower Richland High School.

Attorney Margaret Bodman with the Children's Law Center in Columbia says simple words online can lead to an array of consequences.

"Ultimately being held on probation or committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice. Depending on your age you could be charged as an adult and that brings about all of the consequences an adult faces from imprisonment, permanent criminal conviction on your record, effect of future job availability," says Bodman.

It may be just an online post to some, but law enforcement will not take risks.

"If you're saying 'I'm gonna kill you' or 'I'm gonna beat you up' or 'I'm gonna blow up this building', any type of threat we have to take serious, no matter from the minor to the major, it's something we have to investigate," says Curtis Wilson with the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

Bodman says there have been discussions over the last several years about drafting legislation that would address these issues. Anything can be posted online but the wrong motives could lead to severe consequences.

"Take a beat. Take a breath, think it through. Don't just react off the bat because something you do could cause something to happen, especially when you get law enforcement involved," says Wilson.

To promote internet responsibility, Internet Crimes Against Children of the Attorney General's office gives free presentations to schools all over the state. Click here to find out more information.

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