Cyberbullying involves mean or threatening messages or images sent across the internet or some other form of technology (e.g., cell phones, IM). Cyberbullies typically get away with crimes because they believe they aren't harming a victim physically, that online insults, "veiled" or otherwise, don't count as harassment. It couldn't be further from the truth. Victims of cyberbullying often struggle with significant worry and sadness, which sometimes requires support from a professional therapist to manage the these feelings. Indeed, publicity surrounding several recent tragic high profile cyberbullying cases has led to calls for changes in laws punishing cyberbullies

What can Parents do?

If a child is being cyberbullied, parents often struggle to stop the bullying and support their child. Parents need to know how to recognize a cyberbully, and if all other steps to curtail the cyberbully have failed, it is important for parents to understand their rights legally and know how to prosecute the cyberbully for violation of their child's rights.

Before pursuing the legal path, parents can help their child in a number of ways. They can help their child to disable their personal accounts, delete the cyberbully from their profiles, and start monitoring their internet and cell phone usage more closely. If these measures don't stop the cyberbullying, parents can seek the help of the school. In most cases of cyberbullying, schools are informed about cyberbullying, and they try and stop the harasser, although many schools are slow to take action.

P. Dennis Maloney of P.C lawyers, Anchorage, Alaska, specializes in bullying and litigation against school districts. He is considered one of the few experts on laws regarding bullying. He recently won a case against the Anchorage school district who did not protect a student who was bullied. The student was so distressed by the bullying that he attemtped suicide.

The Anchorage school district isn't the only school district to have lost a bullying lawsuit. Other districts have also failed to protect students. If "the victim continues to get harassed until he or she exhibits physical signs of depression and anxiety, there are several options and choices to legally file a case against the bully and his parents," states Maloney.

Prosecuting the Bully

Filing a Lawsuit

Parents have the option of filing a lawsuit. The lawsuit unfortunately requires extensive effort, time, and money. Not including, being able to find a lawyer who would charge less for a small case.

Lawsuits sue for:
  • Money - You can claim damages mental or physical and get therapy, medication, and severe distress reimbursed.
  • Injunction - An injunction is a restraining order against the bully by the bully victim.

Filing a Civil Suit

  • Filing a Civil Suit is easier on the pocket and produces faster results. The parents can sue for damages both physical and mental. In the case of cyberbullying, the parent must prove that the victim exhibits physical manifestations of the psychological pain.
  • With the civil suit, you may file for an injunction as well, keeping the bully away from your child.

Who can I contact?

Parents should try contacting the school district, but most districts aren't good at handling these type of cases. They want to protect all the children and are slow in determining who is the real bully. By the time they do, most cases have progressed into severe cases of bullying.

You can try contacting a lawyer, but unless he is a pro bono lawyer or will work for free, you will have a difficult time finding legal representation.

The best way to start the process is to file a small claim action in a civil court. This can be done without a lawyer. Almost every state has a small claims court, where you can claim up to $2000. Although the money is a nominal amount, it will get the attention of the bully's parents.

How do parents document a cyberbullying incident and how many incidents are required before a parent decides to prosecute?

This is your child's health and happiness, and parents want to make sure their child isn't affected by the bullying. One incident is enough to want to put a stop to it. Calling someone a derogatory term on Facebook, MySpace, or any other social networking site is deemed slander in the eyes of the law. One single copy of the conversation is enough proof for a judge. "If you can show the evidence of the bullying and the physical result of your daughter's depression or anxiety you have an extremely strong case," notes Maloney.

How do I protect my child after starting a case?

As the parent of a bully victim, chances are, you probably want to keep your child as far away from the accused as possible. Making your child change his/her Facebook, MySpace names and adding additional security will aide in the process of eliminating unwanted people online. If the bullying is via text message, changing the phone number and making sure she is careful with distributing her personal number is imperative.

Even though the cyberbully contacted your child online or on the phone, knowing there is a case against him/her may make the bully start to harass the victim in school. Although the school district should make the bully change schools, there will be strong resistance to forcing another child to leave. You will have to move your child to another school. This may be difficult initially, but your child will feel less anxious knowing that his/her bully is far away, and unable to cause any harm.

"Bullies need an audience. If you make the bystanders responsible, the bullying stops," states Maloney. He refers to a new program discussing change and how to stop bullying in schools and on the Internet. Making schools and Internet forums a community, enables bullying/cyberbullying to decrease.

Other bullying resources
  1. Target Bullying Research Lab www.targetbully.com

  2. Bullying Research Network http://brnet.enl.edu

  3. Tips to Help When Your Child is Bullied Online : http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Internet_Safety_News/

  4. Pro Bono Lawyers http://www.probono.net/