Taking the Fight to Cyberbullying

Bullying is no longer limited to fist fights and name calling on the neighborhood playground. With the evolution of the internet, smartphones and social media platforms, bullying has truly gone cyber – and viral—morphing into new electronic forms of harassment that are much more pervasive and harmful than any schoolyard shoving match could ever be.

A disturbing trend

Despite the potential physical and emotional damage of cyberbullying, it is alarmingly common among adolescents and teens. According to cyberbullying statistics from the i-SAFE Foundation1:

  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying.
  • More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online.
  • Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
  • Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs.

Life-changing effects

Personal harassment, whether it is traditional bullying or cyberbullying, causes significant emotional and psychological distress. In fact, just like any other victim of bullying, kids who are cyberbullied often experience anxiety, fear, depression, and low self-esteem. They also may deal with physical symptoms, and struggle academically. Sadly, some have even turned to suicide to escape the enormous fear and pain they are feeling.

Taking action

While parents, educators and the teens themselves are often the first line of defense against forms of electronic harassment, the government is also stepping up efforts to take the fight to cyberbullying.

At present, no federal law directly addresses cyber bullying. In some cases, cyberbullying overlaps with discriminatory harassment which is covered under federal civil rights laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

According to stopbullying.gov2, a number of State and local lawmakers have taken action to prevent bullying and protect children. Through laws in their state education codes and elsewhere and model policies that provide guidance to districts and schools, each state addresses bullying differently.

Here is how some of the municipalities we serve are taking on this issue in their legislation:

  • Monroe County, NY issued an outright ban on cyberbullying with penalties of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • The City of St. Francis, WI prohibits any threat to the physical and emotional safety of individuals and bans any practice that promotes it.
  • Ulster County, NY explicitly bans the use of electronic forms of communication with the intent to harass abuse, intimidate, torment, or otherwise inflict emotional harm on a minor.

Learn about the laws near you

For a searchable map of state legislation that addresses cyberbullying, click here.

Our eCode360 clients can also search our library of more than 2,000 Codes for more examples of cyber bullying – or any legislative issue that comes up. Just type key words, such as “online harassment”, or “safe schools” and a list of the matching content will come up. Users can even filter results by the municipalities’ population, geography, government type, and class. Chances are, if a topic has come up in your municipality, your neighbors have experienced issues too.

National Bullying Campaigns and Programs3

1i-SAFE Foundation, The Leader in e-Safety Education; 2stopbullying.gov; 3CovenantEyes®: Bullying Statistics: Fast Facts about Cyber Bullying

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