YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – In an age where technology is at kids’ fingertips, more sex and harassment cases are coming through Mahoning County’s Juvenile Justice system.
“This is out of control and every student, every child, probably 5-year-olds, have phones and they need to know,” Mahoning County Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick said.
Clinical counselor James DeLucia agrees.
“A lot of times, kids nowadays are charged with horrific crimes that don’t necessarily fit into our model of treatment here at the court,” DeLucia said.
That is why a team of people involved with Mahoning County Juvenile Court came up with the Cyber and Relational Diversion, or C.A.R.D., program.
“Unfortunately, juveniles and their parents don’t realize that while these behaviors or these actions can be morally questionable at best, they also are in violation of the Ohio Revised Code,” Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Anissa Modarelli said.
“There are consequences for sending naked pictures of yourself or bullying somebody on the Internet or through chat or Instagram or anything like that,” probation supervisor Sharon Fischer said.
The C.A.R.D. program is a free, five-week diversion program for kids ages 12 to 17. It uses education as a tool to deter these kids from inappropriate online behavior.
According to a brochure, the program specifically addresses sexting, inappropriate touch, sexual harassment, cyber-bullying, healthy sexuality, healthy relationships, self-esteem, Ohio laws and cyber safety. Participants are referred through court or law enforcement, school, parents and they can even refer themselves if they think they have a problem.
To participate in C.A.R.D., juveniles must be Mahoning County residents, have an IQ of 70 or above, no prior criminal record and parents or guardians that also are willing to participate.