One of the vexing problems brought about by the Internet and social media is the phenomenon of cyberbullying. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying does not involve actual physical confrontation. Indeed the cyberbully who posts harassing and threatening messages on Facebook and other social media is often not even identified. As a result, some victims of cyberbullying have been driven to suicide, so powerless do they feel to stop it. Many states have attempted or are currently attempting to invoke real change for cyberbullying victims by passing anti-cyberbullying laws.
Earlier today we published a blog post about a new anti-cyberbullying bill sweeping through Florida's legislature. A few months ago, a similar bill in Colorado received massive support and approval from the state's House of Representatives. However, the Colorado cyberbullying law was recently rejected by the Colorado Senate.
The Colorado legislature was striving to equip the state’s law enforcement agencies with tools to combat cyberbullying. According to Channel 7 News in Denver, HB 14-1131, was a bill that would have specifically made cyberbullying a crime. Initially, the bill was successful, as it passed the Colorado House Education Committee unanimously and passed the state Senate in a 54-10 vote.The bill endeavored to “make cyberbullying of a minor by another minor a Class 2 misdemeanor, which could carry up to three months in jail. The penalty could double if the harassment is based on race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin.”
During the hearings, testimonies by parents, children, law enforcement, and educators were generally supportive of the bill. One representative from the Criminal Defense Bar opposed the bill, claiming that it was unnecessary because cyberbullying could be handled under current harassment and stalking laws.
However, a representative of the District Attorney's Council pointed out that cyberbullying is hard to classify under either crime. Stalking and harassment involves one on one confrontations. Posting a nasty, threatening or insulting message on the Internet, can potentially be seen by many thousands of people, adding to the humiliation and fear by the victim. The bill's sponsor has since announced that she will seek to pass the bill again next year.
It is clear that anti-cyberbullying bills face difficulties being passed into law, despite initial levels of support. The influx of the Internet and social networking has brought about many unforeseen complications and, unfortunately, it will take time for the law to catch up with these challenges. Protect your kids and teens from the harmful effects of cyberbullying the best way that you can with the uKnowKids parental intelligence tool, which enables parents to be aware of their kids' digital lives.