Cyberbullying can involve all three types of bullying and takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets, as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat and website. This type of bullying is becoming more prevalent every day. Examples include:
- Demeaning or hateful text messages or emails
- Rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites
- Embarrassing pictures, videos, website, or fake profiles posted online
Why is Cyberbullying different than the other types of bullying?
Students who are being cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well. Additionally, students who are cyberbullied have a more difficult time escaping the negative behavior.
- Cyberbullying can occur 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and reach a student when he or she is alone and/or when in their own home.
- Cyberbullying messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience. It can be difficult and sometimes impossible to trace the source.
- Deleting inappropriate or harassing messages, texts, and pictures is extremely difficult after they have been posted or sent.
What exactly is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place via electronic communications or digital devices such as cell phones, tablets, or computers. It is deliberate harassing, intimidating, shaming, or otherwise targeting another person via electronic devices. Cyberbullying is a serious act that has lasting consequences.
Cyberbullying commonly occurs on social media as: text messaging through devices; instant messaging through devices; email provider services; social media message features; diary sites; interactive games; online profiles; Apps; and more. With easy access and the prevalence of such media and digital forums, personal content can be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. Racism, intolerance, and fear can also play a role.
Cyberbullying has special aspects. It can be persistent, permanent, and/or hard to notice. When it is persistent, it can be difficult for students experiencing it to find relief. When the cyberbullying is posted online, it becomes publicly available and may lead to a negative online reputation impacting college admissions, employment, and other areas of life. Cyberbullying is harder to recognize since educators and parents may not overhear or see it taking place. Similar to acts of bullying, students may be reluctant to report cyberbullying due to humiliation or embarrassment.
Is Cyberbullying a Crime?
Some types of online or electronic conduct are crimes. The underlying challenge to determining criminal acts is that cyberbullying can take many forms and can violate a number of disparate criminal statues dependent on the underlying content. As examples, but not an exhaustive list, statutory violations can include:
- Identity Theft, Penal Code section 530.5; here the harasser assumes the identity of the victims and creates a social media page or communication that appears to come from the victim. This is also a violation of Penal Code section 529, false personation.
- Unlawful recording, Penal Code section 632; here the harasser records the victim without their knowledge and posts the conversation.
- Cyber exploitation generally. See https://oag.ca.gov/cyberexploitation. A list of crimes can be found at https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/ce/cyber-exploitation-post.pdf.
Unfortunately, cyberbullying is not limited to a specified form of conduct. It’s only limit is that of the human imagination to cause harm and perpetrators are consistently adopting new technology and innovate techniques to accomplish their goals.