When do Pranks Become Crimes?

Pranks are supposed to be harmless jokes, but sometimes they go too far. Recently, 11-year old Tysen Benz of Marquette, Michigan committed suicide as a result of his 13-year old girlfriend pranking him by faking her suicide. A prosecutor is now pursuing criminal charges against a juvenile involved in the scheme, but authorities would not comment on the age or relationship of the minor with Tysen.

This exposes the nasty nature of pranks that go too far. Prank Youtube channels like RomanAtwood (12 million subs), VitalyzdTv (9.3 million subs), and JoshPalerLin (2.4 million subs), are extremely popular, and may inspire young children and teenagers to go out and try similar pranks themselves. The concerning part is that these “pranks” are often scripted with actors to generate the right reaction. When imitated, these pranks can have unintended, and sometimes criminal, consequences.

In the unfortunate case of Tysen Benz, Benz was clearly being cyberbullied. However, the adverse effects of pranks are not limited to bullying. Bystanders or strangers can become involved/injured in dangerous pranks that target people who are not only family or friends. It is important to discuss the criminal implications of pranks, whether they be intentionally harmless or harmful.

My questions for the caucus are as follows:

Should pranks that cause unintended criminal offense be considered negligence, or should they be prosecuted as crimes?

Should Youtube implement rules for “prank channels” to disclose whether pranks are scripted to deter imitation at home?

How can Michigan deter harmful pranks, especially by children who do not know better?