Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is any type of bullying that employs digital technology to harass, abuse, threaten, demean or belittle another person. Smart phones, lap top computers and tablets can all be used for cyberbullying. This form of bullying often takes place on Social Media platforms such as Facebook and through text messaging, instant messaging  and chat programs.

If your child has suffered harm caused by cyberbullying, you should contact the child injury lawyers of James M. Poe, P.C., without delay. We serve clients in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. We can provide a free consultation and discuss the steps you can take to protect your child from this potentially devastating form of bullying.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Bullying is when one person uses some form of power – whether physical or verbal – to control another person in some way. Bullying often involves making threats, spreading damaging rumors, attacking another verbally or exerting power by deliberately excluding or ignoring another person. In-person bullying typically involves some form of physical contact such as shoving, kicking or hitting.

Cyberbullying is simply another method by which a person exerts control over another. However, this form of bullying is unique because it is accomplished through the use of technology.

The proliferation of digital communication devices makes damaging another person by this method as easy and as simple as pushing a button. Most young people have access to a smart phone or computer. The ability to bully a person through the Internet adds an alarming element to a national bullying epidemic. The bullying can take the form of posting embarrassing photos or videos or posting degrading, humiliating, demeaning or embarrassing comments. In some cases, the bullying involves creating a false profile and offering sexual services to others.

How Prevalent is Cyberbullying in Georgia and Across the Country?

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), an agency of the U.S. Department of Education, reports that a shocking number of young people are the victims of bullying. Out of 24.5 million students surveyed, 6.8 million (nearly 28 percent) reported to the NCES that they had been bullied.

The most common forms of bullying reported by the students were:

  • Name calling
  • Insults
  • Being threatened with harm
  • Being physically attacked by pushing, shoving, tripping or spitting.

A percentage of these victims – a total of 2.2 million students – reported to the NCES that they had been subjected to cyberbullying, including:

  • 884,000 students who reported that they had been victimized by another party posting hurtful information on the Internet.
  • 263,000 students who reported that they had been cyberbullied when another person purposely shared private information online.
  • Other forms of cyberbullying reported to the NCES included unwanted contact through e-mail, texting, instant messaging, or online gaming, and exclusion from an online community.

How Can Cyberbullying Be Prevented in Georgia?

Parents play a critical role in teaching their children techniques to deal with bullying. Parents can also stay in close communication with their children about what is happening at school and monitor what they are doing online. Young people are often hesitant to admit that they have been bullying victims, whether physically, verbally or through cyberbullying. Steps you can take as a parent to prevent cyberbullying include:

  • Set a good example. Your children are watching you. You are a role model. If you engage in gossip, make denigrating comments about others, exclude people from social events as punishment and similar actions, you are setting a negative example that will be replicated by your child – possibly online.
  • Communication with your child. Parents can have difficulty communicating with tweens and teens. However, if you overcome the barriers and reestablish good communication, it can be a critical point in discovering what is bothering your child. Listen, understand and let your child know you hear what he or she is saying – without judgment.
  • Monitor your child’s online behavior. Most parents are hesitant to “spy” on their children. Still, it is important to protect against cyberbullying, whether the child is a victim or engaging in bullying. Find a program that allows you to access online accounts but use it only to monitor for dangers to your child. A child has a right to some privacy. Over-involvement in their personal lives can backfire.
  • Teach your child to ask for help. Your child’s school should never allow bullying in any form, in-person or online. It is imperative that your child be willing to report cyberbullying. Go to the school with your child. Get to know the principal, teachers, counselors and other school personnel and how they approach cyberbullying. Learn the school’s bullying policy as well.

Can You Take Legal Action in Georgia to Address Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is an evolving area of the law. However, it is clear at present that parents do have the ability to take legal actions to protect their children under limited circumstances.  The Georgia Court of Appeals recently ruled that the parents of a teen who allegedly bullied another child by creating a phony Facebook account could be held liable for the harm which the bullied child suffered. According to the Court, a jury could find that, after learning about their child’s misconduct, which occurred during the use of a family computer and Internet account, the parents had “failed to exercise due care in supervising and controlling such activity going forward.”   In light of this decision, the best first step that a parent can take when their child has been bullied is to reach out to the parents of the child who is responsible for the bullying, as well as to the child’s school.   If the bullying continues after parents have been notified, it may then be appropriate to consult with an attorney to review your case and determine whether a lawsuit may be an appropriate measure to take.

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