Cyberbullying is a growing epidemic not only in the United States, but all over the world. Today, children and teens are bullied more on the Internet than in person, thanks to smartphones and social media. The impacts of this kind of harassment can be severe and include depression and suicide. It’s true, Cyberbullying is lethal, but is it viewed as a crime in the eyes of the law? Currently, state Cyberbullying laws are still being proposed and implemented as legislators are now understanding the severity of the situation. In the meantime, there are still other legal methods that victims and parents can use to combat cyberbullying.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is very similar to what traditional bullying is known as, except it exists on the Internet. This makes it hard for parents and teachers to notice, but easy for the victim’s peers to see. Cyberbullying occurs when someone uses a digital or mobile device to harass, threaten, or humiliate another person. Recent statistics have shown that Cyberbullying exists most commonly on the social networking platforms of Instagram (42%), Facebook (37%), and Snapchat (31%).
Is Cyberbullying Illegal?
Currently, there is no federal law against cyberbullying, but all 50 states do have laws against bullying in general. In fact, every state except Wisconsin and Alaska includes a specific reference to cyberbullying in their anti-bullying laws. However, this doesn’t mean that cyber harassment is criminalized in all states. Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Wyoming are the only states that do not criminalize it. Depending on the school district and state, there may also be school sanctions and school policies that discipline cyberbullies.
Moreover, cyberbullying has serious implications for those that are unfortunate enough to engage in this type of abuse. For example, earlier this year, Harvard rescinded its acceptance of Harvard applicant, Kyle Kashuv, because of social media posts and “jokes” he posted in Facebook Groups. The insults included jokes about abusing children, the Holocaust, and racial and ethnic slurs. Notably, he had made the remarks when he was 16 years old, but they were still used against him. Lesson learned: institutions of higher learning are paying attention to the types of people they want to admit, so cyberbullies, be warned.
Using Defamation as a Defense Weapon
When someone is bullying, chances are they may be spreading lies about their victim. This why many victims and parents have been utilizing defamation statutes to combat cyberbullying. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does and works very well. But the impact of using defamation laws to combat cyberbullying largely depends on the jurisdiction the defamation case is being filed in.
RM Warner’s founding partner, Raees Mohamed had this to say on cyberbullying and defamation: “The question of what to do if you are cyberbullied online does not have an easy answer. But in some serious cases that I have encountered, we will demand accountability from the school, particularly if they knew about the cyberbullying, and demand swift recourse including expulsion from school. Sadly, adults are frequently engaged in cyberbullying too, and in many of my cases, we have been able to use defamation statutes to sue and stop the cyberbully from further harassing my client. If the cyberbullying involves the use of an employer’s resources, such as a work computer, device, or during work hours, the consequences to the cyberbully can be more severe, and lead to loss of employment.”
Consult With A Cyberbullying Lawyer
If you or a family member is a victim of cyberbullying, consider legal action. Different jurisdictions follow different rules and depending on where you live, you may have a solid case. Consult with an experienced cyberbullying lawyer today.