Cyberbullying is –unwanted and repeated aggressive behavior involving the use of power that’s intended to hurt or control another person that takes place through electronic technology. Examples of electronic technology are devices such as cell phones and computers and communication tools such as social media and instant messaging applications.
In other words it is being mean to another individual over and over again by using social media, phones and computers. It means spreading rumors, pictures or videos on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram or sending mean texts or emails to another person.
Examples of cyberbullying include:
• sending mean or threatening or vulgar messages or images by text or email
• spreading rumors through social networking sites
• posting or sharing embarrassing or sensitive photos or private information online
• stalking or harassing another person online
• hacking someone’s account and sending messages that can cause them harm
• pretending to be someone else online with the intent to cause harm
• sexting or circulating nude or sexually suggestive photos by text or online
What makes cyberbullying different from traditional bullying?
Unlike “traditional” bullying, cyberbullying has no boundaries. This can make it especially cruel. It can happen at any time (day or night) and at any place. A person may even be cyberbullied when she/he is completely alone and within the apparent safety and security of his/her own home. Cyberbullying can also be anonymous (and therefore difficult to trace) and technology allows words and images to be distributed widely and quickly and to remain publicly accessible long after an incident passes.
Is cyberbullying a crime?
Arizona law defines bullying and cyberbullying as harassing, threatening or intimidating another person. Harassment is conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person to be frightened, alarmed, or annoyed. Harassment laws require that the victim actually feel frightened, alarmed or annoyed as a result of the cyberbullying. (Arizona Revised Statute § 13-2921.)
Arizona prosecutors are using Arizona’s harassment statute to prosecute cyberbullies. Under the harassment law, cyberbullying is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail, a fine of $2,500, or both. (Arizona Revised Statutes §§ 13-707, 13-802.) Threatening or intimidating someone, through cyberbullying or otherwise, is also a misdemeanor and carries the same possible sentence if there is a conviction. If the harassment or intimidation continues, and if the bully violates an order of protection or if the bully is convicted of a second offense, it becomes a felony with a possible sentence of 2 years in prison.
Cyberbullies may also be violating other state and education laws including A.R.S. § 15-341 (36) which are procedures aimed at prohibiting students from “harassing, intimidating, and bullying” other students on school grounds, on school property, on school buses, at school bus stops, at school-sponsored events and activities.
What should you do if you or someone you know is being cyberbullied?
• Tell a trusted adult
• If you believe that someone’s life or well-being is in jeopardy, call 9-1-1
• Don’t retaliate, comment or respond (even negatively) to cyberbullying messages or images – because a reaction (not only from the victim but from other people as well) is exactly what cyberbullies hope for
• Don’t share cyberbullying messages or images with other people
• Get free and confidential 24/7 support from a trained crisis counselor by calling 1–800–273–TALK (8255) or by accessing the online chat option at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
• Save/capture whatever you can (messages/images/chat logs/etc.) to keep as evidence
• Keep a record of dates/times/descriptions/etc.
• Block all communications from and with the cyberbully using your privacy and preference settings
• Change all your passwords if necessary
The website of the United States Department of Health & Human Services’ Stop Bullying program (at https://www.stopbullying.gov) and the website of the Cyberbullying Research Center (at http://cyberbullying.org/) are great resources for anyone interested in learning more about cyberbullying.