What are the Legal consequences of Cyberbullying?

In simple terms, cyberbullying is a form of harassment, intimidation, or threat that is caused by the use of online social media platforms. However, the concept of bullying is not something new in society, it has just become virtual.

Cyberbullying is a common issue that people face on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. All the US states have cyberbullying laws in place, with provisions to address online harassment.

In this article, you will get information about the legislation that have been adopted for cyberbullying offenses in different American states.

Is cyberbullying a serious problem?

Despite the absence of audible insults and physical abuse, cyberbullying can affect more severely and traumatize the victim differently than the traditional way of bullying. Because of the increasing use of technology in society, cyberbullying can happen anytime, anywhere. Even friends and family members of victims are found to be involved in cyberbullying practice.

Consider an example: There is a high school student who, clicks an unwanted picture of his classmate, and uploads it to any social media site or share that picture with friends (through email or message) with offensive comments.

All of a sudden, the targeted student becomes the purpose of amusement to the whole class – and they keep mocking the student with different abusive names.

Cyberbullying often results in humiliation for life.

The Department of Health and Human Services has all the information regarding cyberbullying on its website. The unprecedented rise in the number of cyberbullying cases has forced many people to abandon the internet. They don’t use any social media platform now.

Source: Ethan’s Adventures

Cyberbullying laws in different states

Cyberbullying is relatively considered a new type of intimidation and harassment, but most states – Florida, California, and Missouri – have provisions to regulate school sanctions and even criminal penalties for electronic harassment.

Florida: “Jeffrey Johnson Stand UP for All Student Act” in Florida states that “Bullying of students under K-12 or any staff member is strictly prohibited”. Bullying act includes cyberbullying that inflicts psychological or physical abuse to one or more than one victim, that includes tactics like, teasing, stalking, threatening, social exclusion, theft, sexual or racial harassment. The law directs the school to report such incidents and draft policies against these actions.

California: In California State law, bullying is intentionally included in the school sanctions codes. The Safe Place to Learn Act and Communications by means of electronic Act and some other school sanction codes provide guidelines to safeguard students’ rights to attend the classes at school in a safe, peaceful, and secure environment. The use of social media to intentionally abuse somebody, or to create fear for life is considered a criminal offense – and it is punishable for up to 12 months in jail term and a fine of approximately $1000.

Missouri: Definition of bullying in Missouri statute states, “the transmission of hatred or offensive communication through (but not limited to) messages, sound, image using any electronic device”. School management must report any incident of bullying they may observe. An individual who uses electronic media for bullying must be treated with a Class A misdemeanor, but if the person is 17 years of age, or below then the conviction will be treated as a Class D felony.

State penalties for cyberbullying

Penalties for cyberbullying across states vary. Depending on the state and the applicable state laws for cyberbullying, sanctions are included in civil penalties, such as jail time for misdemeanors or felonies or school intervention due to suspensions.

Despite the fact that states regulate cyberbullying laws and school administration sanctions for cyberbullying law violations, the number of cyberbullying cases has increased. It is because of the difference in laws across states. For example, in Florida, laws do not induce criminal charges for bullying but restrict the school administration to award penalties and sanctions for the wrongdoers. On the other hand, Missouri courts charge the offenders for violation of cyberbullying laws, executed through social media or any electronic medium.

When should you see an attorney for cyberbullying?

In an event of cyberbullying, you may need to hire an attorney. You should look for your state rights, in case you are not aware of the cyberbullying regulations. If the local state laws allow for a criminal act against the offender, or a civil case against the administration of the school district, then you should go for it.

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