CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — One out of every four teens in America has been bullied at some point in their young lives, but these days bullying doesn't only happen on playgrounds or in schools. It also happens online.
The law makes it illegal to bully anyone through an electronic device, particularly over social media. And people are turning to lawyers for help.
Bullying has been a problem for generations, but it’s grown to a new level through the use of cell phones, computers, and tablets.
“Number one, block the person that is bullying you after you have taken pictures, and saved evidences of the bullying and the comments. Once you save that evidence, you block them for your own sanity; take it to the police department, and they, in turn, will take it to our district attorney here locally, Mark Gonzales, who takes these kinds of things very seriously,” said Attorney at Law Joe Flores.
When it comes to cyberbullying, it is against the law and carries hefty fines and possible jail time for violators.
“They might get a friendly visit from the FBI or from local authorities for cyberbullying, and they can face the first time misdemeanor, and that’s nothing to laugh about. You end up on probation, all your codes to your social media accounts will be monitored, and you will lose a lot of privileges. Second time, it can go up to a class A or even a low grade felony, which means prison time,” said Flores.
With the idea that cyberbullying cases are going to court, people might want to start thinking twice before using use their keyboards to attack others. However, it may take awhile before they see some justice.
“The law is set up to protect you, unfortunately the local, state, and even the federal government officials are still trying to catch up with all the complaints that are going on,” said Flores.
Bullying can continue long beyond middle and high school. About 60 million Americans are victimized by bullies.
“Your words are weapons against somebody. It can take somebody’s life, and that is why we have these laws in place,” said Flores.
Cyberbullying is using technology to threaten, harass, embarrass or target another person. Some of the most common types of cyberbullying include:
• Threats on online social media
• Rude texts
• Mean or negative tweets
• Posting personal information and/or videos that are intended to hurt and embarrass someone
Cyberbullying also can include pictures, messages or web pages that are not taken down, after the person has requested it.
To Prevent Cyberbullying:
• Don’t give out private information (passwords, pins, name, address, phone number, school name, or family and friends’ names).
• Don’t share your password, even with your friends.
• Don’t exchange pictures, videos or give out email addresses to people you meet online (ask for permission from an adult first).
• Don’t share buddy lists.
• Don’t send a message when you are angry.
• Don’t use profanity or insulting or rude language.
• Delete messages from people you don’t know, especially if they seem angry or mean.
• Get out of the site or chat if something doesn’t seem right.
• Realize that online conversations are not private.
• Be aware that whatever happens online can be reproduced and spread very easily, by anyone.
• Do not say anything online that you would not say face-to-face to the person on the other end.
If you are Cyberbullied:
• Speak with a trusted adult.
• Speak with your teacher or principal if it is school related.
• Remember that cyberbullying is not about you, it is about bullies who:
- Want to feel powerful
o are looking for attentiono probably are victims of bullying themselves
• Don’t open or read messages by cyberbullies.
• Don’t react to the bully (ignore them).
• Walk away from the computer.
If Ignoring the Bully Doesn’t Work?
• Again, speak with a trusted adult or your teacher or principal if it is school related.
• Don’t meet with the bully.
• Block the bully.
• Don’t erase messages or images from the bully. Instead, save them to a folder as evidence In case the bullying escalates and law enforcement gets involved.
• Contact the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to report the harassment.
• Inform the police if you are threatened with harm.
Contact the CyberTipline if:
• You receive unsolicited obscene material (pornography).
• You are directed to a misleading domain name (website).
• You are tricked into viewing harmful material.