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Legal How-To: Reporting Online Bullying

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on January 23, 2015 11:17 AM

Online bullying, also called cyberbullying, has become a widespread issue. As you may recall, a FindLaw survey in 2014 found that nearly one in 12 children had been the victim of online bullying.

What can parents do about this? One Minnesota dad whose daughter was being bullied over Snapchat talked to the bullies' father, filed a police report, and then fought back by posting the bullies' (and their father's) messages on YouTube, reports Minnesota Public Radio. Publicity following the release of the video spurred the child's school to launch an investigation and also led the father of the alleged bullies to lose his job.

If your child is being bullied online, how and to whom should you report it? Here are a few tips you may want to consider:

Steps to Take Immediately

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' StopBullying.gov website, there are several important steps that parents can take immediately when online bullying occurs. For example:

  • Keep evidence of the bullying. Save screenshots or print copies of cyberbullying messages or online posts. This evidence will be needed to substantiate your claims.
  • Don't respond to cyberbullying messages. HHS recommends that you don't respond to online bullies. Engaging in a back and forth may make it more difficult to show that the messages were unwanted or offensive.
  • Block cyberbullies from contacting you. Most Web-messaging services and social media sites allow users to block specific users from contacting you.

Whom to Contact

When online bullying involves threats of violence, sexually explicit messages/photos, stalking, hate crimes, or invasions of privacy, it may be best to call the police. Many states have specifically made cyberbullying a crime, and online bullying may also violate other criminal laws.

When cyberbullying involves fellow students of a child, parents can also contact the child's school. Online bullying may often be accompanied by real-world bullying at school, which may make the school responsible for taking action.

Parents can also report online abuse to the websites and online services being used to communicate the abuse. These sites typically have terms of service which may be violated by online bullying, allowing the services to terminate the accounts of online bullies.

Need More Help?

If your child is being bullied online, you may be able to pursue legal action against the bullies and the bullies' parents. An experienced personal injury lawyer can advise you on your legal options.

Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo.

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