What Can You Do About Online Harassment and Cyberbullying?

By Peter DePaolis

Cyberbullying is a very real problem affecting thousands of youth around the world. Cyberbullying refers to harmful behaviors against a victim online, through communications such as email or social media. It is a growing issue spreading like wildfire in schools and communities globally. A Pew Research Center survey found almost 60% of teens have experienced online bullying or harassment. Successfully handling cyberbullying as a victim or parent may take help from personal injury attorneys.

Talk to an Adult

If you are a teen or child victim of cyberbullying, talk to an adult. Do not fear retaliation or listen to threats from the bully. Examples of cyberbullying include name-calling, spreading rumors, sending unsolicited sexually explicit photos, stalking someone or sending threats. Speaking up against bullying is the first step in eradicating it from your community. Go to your parent, a teacher or a school counselor and report what is happening to you. Print out proof of cyberbullying or show the adult the content online, if possible. The adult will direct you to someone who can help.

Notice Signs Early

As a parent, it may be up to you to notice the signs of bullying or cyberbullying. Your child may be too scared or embarrassed to come directly to you. Picking up on red flags early could quite frankly save your child’s life. It could end cyberbullying before it escalates to the point of having a real, long-lasting impact on your child. The signs of cyberbullying can include withdrawal from favorite activities, avoiding social gatherings, declines in school performance, changes in mood or behaviors, loss of appetite and avoiding the use of electronics.

Block the Bully

One of the positive aspects of cyberbullying is that it may be possible to simply block the bully and never hear from him or her again. This may work if the bully does not personally know the victim and has only contacted the victim online. Most websites and social media sites allow users to block certain people. Blocking someone prevents him or her from seeing another person’s content and photos, as well as from commenting or messaging the person. The person blocked will have no way of contacting the victim unless he or she creates a new profile. If cyberbullying is occurring via text message, block the bully’s number or change phone numbers.

Spread Awareness

Community outreach and antibullying efforts could prevent these issues from impacting you or your children. Help spread awareness of the issue of cyberbullying among other parents so they can keep closer eyes on the online activities of their children. Many states have rules that require schools to maintain antibullying protocols, including instructing teachers on how to notice the signs of cyberbullying and address the issue. Find out what your child’s school is doing to prevent cyberbullying. If the answer is nothing, report the school to the district for failing to institute antibullying procedures.

Call the Police

Cyberbullying is most likely against the law in your state. Most states have ordinances prohibiting harassment and discrimination online. Call the police and report the cyberbully. The police may be able to identify the perpetrator by tracking the user’s IP address. Pressing criminal charges against the bully could lead to justice for your victimized child. It could also prevent the bully from targeting other victims in the future. The penalties for cyberbullying can include jail time, fines and probation.

File a Civil Lawsuit

As the victim or parent of a victim, you may have grounds for a civil claim. A civil claim seeks reimbursement for monetary, physical and emotional damages the victim suffered because of the bullying. A civil cyberbullying lawsuit could lead to payment for many economic and noneconomic losses.

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Damages to reputation
  • Emotional distress
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Mental health problems
  • Wrongful death

Obtaining compensation for cyberbullying takes identifying the bully and proving before a judge or jury that he or she caused the injuries or damages in question. Working with a personal injury lawyer near you could help you hold a cyberbully civilly accountable for his or her actions.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.