One question that came up often with this topic is what is happening to prevent it and are their laws against it? Beginning with federal laws, as of February 2014, there are no federal laws against anti-bullying. A cyber bullying law was proposed in 2009 along with criminal sanctions by Linda Sanchez (CA). She introduced a bill to Congress (Committee on the Judiciary) that was referred to as “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act.” The Act proposed the following facts/findings:
- ⅘ children aged 2-17 live in a home with internet access
- those on social networking sites are more likely to be targets
- electronic communications give anonymity to the perpetrator and allow for widespread distribution which makes them severely dangerous to youth
- online victims are associated with emotional distress and other psychological problems
- cyber bullying can cause psychological harm including depression, negative academic performance, safety, lead to violent behavior (murder/suicide)
- 60% of mental health professionals report having treated > 1 patient with a problematic internet experience in the previous 5 years (54% of clients were under 18 years of age).
The act proposes amending Chapter 41 of title 18 of the US code by adding:
(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
(b) As used in this section—(1) the term communication means the electronic transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received; and (2)the term electronic means means any equipment dependent on electrical power to access an information service, including email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages.
The current status of the Act is that it died after being moved to a committee. However, some bullying “laws” overlap with discriminatory harassment which is covered under federal civil rights laws enforced by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Since the federal level failed to address cyber bullying as an issue, we turned to state laws. Of the fifty states, Montana is the only has no laws against bullying at all. Of the 49 states that have bullying laws,19 include cyber bullying, 48 include electronic harassment (Wisconsin excluded), 14 have criminal sanctions, 44 have school sanctions, all 49 have required school policies, and only 12 include off campus behaviors.
Overall, it seems that individual states are working on creating their own laws since anti-bullying and anti-cyber bullying laws have not had much success at all at the federal level. Does your state have laws against cyber bullying? There’s one way to find out…