How California Is Fighting Against Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can be defined as using online platforms, like social media or instant messaging, to intimidate or belittle peers. Since the 1990s, it’s been the subject of countless PSAs and school lessons. While it may seem pretty harmless, a way for kids to “grow a thick skin,” the simple matter of the fact is that cyberbullying can destroy lives. According to recent research, about 35 percent of all people have been bullied online at some point in their lives.

Cyberbullying can take many different forms, including:shutterstock_344342570

  • Online rumors
  • Mean or hurtful comments online
  • Threatening violence via text message
  • Threatening violence online
  • Pretending to be the victim online
  • Posting harmful or mean photos

Adolescent girls are much more likely to be bullied online than boys are — 40 percent vs. 28 percent. When it comes to different forms of cyberbullying, girls are more likely to post mean comments, while boys are more likely to use photos and videos. However, it’s not just kids who deal with this problem. Up to 40 percent of adults have also reported being the victim of cyberbullying. With it being such a prevalent issue, California lawmakers are taking a stand.

Protecting Students, In School and Out

In 2014, California lawmakers passed a new bill that would make it easier for teachers to intervene in instances of cyberbullying. Even if the communication took place off school property, educators would still have the authority to step in. Before this bill was passed, students could not be disciplined unless their actions took place at school or during a school-sanctioned activity.

Now, students can be suspended or even expelled if they have been cyberbullying another student. With students fearing to come to school, and some even committing suicide, because they are being bullied, this law helps children and teenagers focus on their education, rather than their peers. While some opponents argue that such a law only addresses the symptoms, and not the root of the problem, it is a step in the right direction.

Helping Adults as Well

While there are no laws specifically protecting adults from cyberbullying, private insurance companies are providing options. Chubb, a behemoth in the insurance industry, is now offering optional cyberbullying coverage as part of its homeowners insurance policies. There is real value in this coverage. When your reputation is tarnished online, it can be extremely costly to clean up the mess. MBLK SocialReputation management companies tend to charge thousands of dollars for their services, but professionals must pay these fees in order to protect their character.

There are also other costs associated with cyberbullying. Often, an IP address and other factors can reveal the true identity of the bullier. However, unless you are well-versed in this sort of work, it can be costly to track down the person on the other side of the computer. Then there are legal fees if you plan on suing for defamation, or even if you wish to file a cease and desist letter. If the bullying is bad enough, you may need counseling afterward. That can also be extremely expensive. All of these costs are covered by this new form of insurance.

What You Can Do to Prevent Cyberbullying

Unfortunately, malicious people will do all that they can to smear your name and hurt you online. However, there are some actions you can take to protect your image, or at least minimize the damage that could be done.

  • Learn How to Block: If you are receiving threatening or abusive messages via text message or social media, learn how to block that person. You can block a number from texting you, and you can also block people from interacting with you on social media. Further, you can report that person if they are bullying you on social media.
  • Protect Your Password: Allowing someone to access your online profiles is a quick way for them to spread false information about you. Use a tough password, and if you suspect it may be compromised, change it immediately. Never keep passwords stored on public computers.
  • Keep Implicative Photos to Yourself: That photo from college of you drinking, or that one of you in a bikini at the beach, can be used against you. While you may want to share these memories with your close friends, do so off social media.
  • Think Before You Post: Just like with photos, think about what you are posting on Facebook or Twitter. If you decide to apply for any kind of job, scholarship or other opportunity, someone else could bring up that post and use it against you.
  • Know Your Reputation: Depending on your influence level in your industry, you may find your reputation under attack regularly. Even if you aren’t an influencer, you should do a Google search of yourself at least quarterly, if not monthly, to see if an vicious rumors have popped up.
  • Understand What You’re Sharing: Every social media website has different sharing settings. Make sure any personal information, even your personal email address, is hidden to anyone you don’t want to get it. Sharing too much personal information is a quick way for someone to tarnish your reputation.

Whether due to jealousy, anger or simply malevolence, there will always be those people who try to hurt others online. Though recent California laws and preventative steps cannot stop cyberbullying completely, they make it much easier to bring perpetrators to justice. If you are being harassed online, speaking with an attorney is your best option.

Leave a Reply