Cyberbullying And The Laws That Govern It

Many people have been asking me if there are any laws or legislation in place to govern cyberbullying.  I have pulled together a list of the states laws on bullying and what they mean in a short blog post below. 

Bullying is not exactly a new phenomenon, a large portion of the adult population experienced it in one form or another during their youth. Cyberbullying, meaning the form of bullying that occurs via the Internet, is relatively new and has garnered much publicity in recent years. The media’s focus on Internet bullying is due in part to a series of incidents that seemed to indicate a trend in bullies harassing others online. There have been suicides of cyberbullying victims and much-publicized incidents where bullies have posted videos of their attacks online. The rise in public attention has spurred lawmakers across the country to put measures in place to prevent this form of harassment from occurring.

State Laws on Bullying and Cyberbullying

While there are no Federal laws to prevent bullying and cyberbullying, laws and/or policies have been instituted in all 50 states to provide some amount of protection for youngsters undergoing harassment from their peers. There is a move underway to make those laws reflective of the large role that technology plays in the lives of youth by including specific consequences for online bullying. As of January 2013, laws in most states had wording with regard to harassment and intimidation via electronic communication, though only a few actually use the term “cyberbullying”. The states with no present cyberbullying laws are:

·      Alaska

·      Indiana

·      Maine

·      Montana

·      Wisconsin

It should be noted that language with regard to electronic bullying has been proposed in both Indiana and Maine while Alaska has a statute against harassment in electronic form.

The Language in Bullying and Cyberbullying  Laws

The language of the laws on bullying and cyberbullying differs greatly from state to state. In some places like California, the law allows for punishments such as expulsion and specifically lists posting on social networks as the type of “electronic act” for which a student can be expelled. It provides the legal grounds for school officials to suspend a student or recommend that they be expelled for online harassment. While states like Colorado have no official law regarding bullying, school districts are legally mandated to enact policy regarding the welfare of students. The policy is required to extend to bullying, and bullying in this instance can include “electronic acts.”

While language that specifically refers to “cyberbullying” may make a law easier to enforce, in many states there are other laws that may also be applicable. Such terms as “cyberstalking” and “cyberharrassment” are used in many state laws that relate to the attempt to harass and intimidate via electronic means like the Internet; these laws may also apply to harassment via telephone. The term “cyberstalking” is used to describe a pattern of behavior online that is deemed threatening or malicious. Behavior that is classified as “cyberharrassment” does not have to be specifically threatening to an individual, but relates to any relentless pursuit and harassment of them on the Internet.

For more information on cyberbullying download our free eBook, "10 Essential Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Cyberbullying." 

                      Internet Safety Resources Center                
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