States to Enact Cyberbullying Laws
We continue to hear horror stories about cyberbullies and how their behavior destroys children. The sad reality is, we all witnessed it or were victims of being bullied at one time or another without the internet phenomenon. But with the advantages of technology also comes the "catch." Internet activity gives us pause as to how much leeway we give our children, and how much of that activity is unsupervised. It is a tough choice because they need to use computers to complete homework these days and we want them to fit in and be accepted with their friends. Therefore, we reluctantly let them participate in social networking activities.
States With Cyberbullying Laws
Cyberbullying has become so rampant among our children, that some have even committed suicide. Put simply, cyberbullying is the act of threatening, harassing or embarrassing another person. Some legislators have been so alarmed by the recent tragedies that new legislation is being introduced in five states: New York, Kentucky, Indiana, Main and Delaware.
The laws would make cyberbullying a misdemeanor or even a felony, possibly resulting in a prison sentence. Forty eight other states have bullying legislation but they are rapidly moving to strengthen those laws, making stiffer penalties for social media or digital cyberbullying.
States Strengthening Cyberbullying Laws
- Indiana: a possible bill gives schools more power to administer punishments to students when they are on their home computers for cyberbullying.
- Maine: a proposed bill would specifically spell out what bullying and cyberbullying is and make clear the steps and expectations for reporting incidents. The proposal would also push a mandatory directive requiring schools to write a policy addressing bullying and cyberbullying.
- Delaware: meetings are currently being held to determine how to effect cyberbullying laws when the student is off campus.
Free Speech and CyberbullyingLegal experts argue that free speech is deprived with cyberbullying laws. According to the Department of Education there are five states (Delaware, Illinois, Georgia, Arizona and Florida) that limit what a school can do in a cyberbullying situation, making it possible only if the bullying has been done on school grounds or through school computers on campus or leased.
What can Parents Do?
- Parents need to keep the lines of communication open with kids. This is easier said than done because it can be very easy to overreact. Try to provide an environment in which they can share difficult things with you easily.
- Take cyberbullying seriously. The wounds can cut deeply and even though your child may act unaffected, they most certainly are.
- Enlist the help of your school administrator, perhaps a counselor or your clergy. This support can only benefit you and your family.
- Understand that your child may actually be the cyberbully. Be prepared to take away privileges, including the computer, their cell phones or Ipods. Oftentimes cyberbullying goes back and forth between kids, making them both equally guilty
- If your child is threatened or there is any chance that your personal contact information has been leaked, go immediately to the police. Take any evidence that you have along by printing out whatever has been said. This will help law enforcement track down the person that is threatening your child.