Lying About Your Age Online and on Social Media: Is It Legal?
Stay safe and on the right side of the law onlineBy Tim Kelly, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on April 14, 2023
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- What You Need To Know
- What if a Minor Lies About Their Age Online?
- Adults on the Other Hand…
- Is It Illegal To Lie About Your Age on Dating Apps?
It cannot be denied that social media sites are a big deal. While apps like Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, Snapchat, and LinkedIn have made conversing and networking easier, they also pose certain dangers such as identity theft, cyberbullying, and catfishing.
Social media sites can also pose significant risks to minors. The law takes the safety of young people very seriously. It’s one thing to lie about yourself in a harmless chat room. But those who lie about their age online to commit sex crimes can expect to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law–this can mean lengthy jail time and entry into sex offender registries.
As with most legal questions, the context and facts of the situation can significantly affect the answer. No one should ever solicit a minor for sexual activity of any kind.
The best way to avoid legal jeopardy here is straightforward: Do not misrepresent your age to minors or strangers online. The law can be equally unforgiving whether you knew a minor’s true age or not.
What You Need To Know
- A minor that lies about their age online and on social media will not face criminal penalties for conducting arising out of their lie.
- Adults can incur serious legal consequences when speaking to minors online, should those conversations be sexual.
- In many states, the mistake of a victim’s age is not a defense to sex crimes such as statutory rape.
- It is not illegal to lie about one’s age on a dating app, but that person could be kicked off of the app for violating the company’s Terms of Service.
What if a Minor Lies About Their Age Online?
Suppose that a minor opens a new account on one of the many social networking sites and speaks to a stranger online. The stranger asks the minor their real age, and the minor lies, responding that they are 18 years old. Here, the 17-year-old minor has not committed a crime. Young people that have been the victims of sex crimes must know they face no legal burden for lying about their age on a social network online. The underage can file criminal reports against perpetrators without fear of repercussion.
Adults on the Other Hand…
Now suppose that the stranger the minor is speaking with is an adult. Even arranging to meet up with the minor is considered a crime in states such as California. If an adult is alleged to have engaged in a sexual relationship with a minor, they can face severe charges like statutory rape.
A conviction for statutory rape can lead to significant jail time, probation, and having to register as a sex offender. Additionally, some sex crimes do not even require physical contact. Engaging in lewd acts such as sexting with someone under 18 years of age can net a person significant jail time in most states.
The charges and penalties for statutory rape vary at the state level – so too do the defenses. Some states’ criminal courts will consider the minor’s dishonesty, but many do not care whether or not an adult knows a victim’s true age.
One area that is the same across all states: consent. A minor cannot give consent. Therefore consent cannot be used as a defense in any sex crimes case involving children in the United States.
If you are seeking more information on this sensitive and nuanced area of the law, you should consider speaking to a criminal defense attorney in your state right away.
Is It Illegal To Lie About Your Age on Dating Apps?
It is not illegal to lie about your birth date or provide false information on an online dating app like Tinder or eHarmony. However, in misrepresenting your age, you will have violated the Terms of Service of those respective apps. If your real age is found out, you could face removal from their service or even a lifetime ban. Also, remember that these sites have minimum age restrictions, and minors are not allowed.
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