Under the Cyberbullying Law, the Illinois General Assembly defines cyberbullying as any occasion when a person harasses another while using a form of electronic communication, threatens another person with bodily harm through a device, commits sexual assault or confinement online, or places a person in fear for their personal safety. Cyberbullying is extremely prevalent among school-aged children and may include sending mean text messages, spreading rumors over email, posting humiliating comments on social media sites or making fake profiles of the victim.
Data collected from the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2008 and 2009 discovered that six percent of students in grades 6 through 12 were victims of cyberbullying in some form. Cyberbullying differs from traditional forms of bullying because:
- It can happen at any time and impact a child even when they are alone
- Abusive messages are difficult to trace to the source because they can often be posted anonymously and spread to many people quickly
- Getting rid of mean text messages, pictures and posts is difficult once they have been sent
A child may be the victim of cyberbullying if they experience frequent headaches or stomach aches, are more socially withdrawn than in the past and no longer want to go to school. A child may also be the victim of cyberbullying if there is a noticeable change in their mood, attitude, appetite or appearance.
Effects of cyberbullying
Parents should not be afraid to monitor their child’s online activities and electronic communications because the effects of cyberbullying can be severe. A child being bullied electronically may start to use alcohol and drugs, skip school, struggle with academic achievement, have lower self-esteem and endure mental health problems, like depression and anxiety.
In some cases, cyberbullying can lead to severe consequences like suicide. For example, a CNN article states that in 2013, a 15-year-old boy took his family’s shotgun and ended his life and a 17-year-old girl died after hanging herself. In 2012, a 12-year-old boy also hung himself and passed away due to his self-inflicted injuries. All of these teenagers were the victims of bullying caused by people they went to school with.
In many of these cases, the child’s parent tried to do something to prevent the bullying from continuing. For example, the mother of the 12-year-old boy who hung himself reported the bullying to his son’s school. Despite her efforts, the bullying escalated. Parents who are concerned that nothing is being done about their child’s bullying may benefit from consulting with an attorney that can ensure their child’s legal rights are protected.