Years ago, when many of us were in school, a bully was your worst nightmare. Today, things have definitely changed. Cyberbullying, defined as bullying that happens via digital devices such as cell phones, computers, and tablets, can take the form of a private online message, a text message, a forum post or message, or through a gaming interface. Cyberbullying encompasses sending, sharing, or posting negative, false, harmful, or deliberately mean content about another person. Embarrassment or humiliation caused by the sharing of personal information about another person is also considered cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is pervasive, and it can be devastating to those being bullied.
You’re probably already aware of the importance of social media in our day-to-day lives. Sites and apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are used by young and old to connect, converse, and share information and images with others. Email is a staple in most people’s lives for the same reason. Instant messaging apps create a quick and efficient way to communicate in real time. All of these together give cyberbullies a huge platform from which to abuse just about whomever they please, in myriad ways.
You may not even know the person bullying you. Often, we befriend people we don’t know on social media sites or apps and are therefore sharing personal information with complete strangers as well as the people we know and trust. Any content you share online – content being pictures, words, or videos – can be viewed by both groups of people. And this very personal look into your life can be just what a cyberbully needs to begin harassing you.
Anything you place into or onto an online platform basically builds a public record of information about you. Cyberbullies can use this information to threaten, harass, humiliate, or blackmail you. Because of the way cyberbullies work, there are some distinct concerns that are unique to cyberbullying, such as:
In Colorado, it’s unlawful to harass or threaten bodily harm or damage to personal property through the use of a telephone, data network, text message, instant message, or computer network or system. Per Colorado Revised Statute § 18-9-111: “Anyone who uses any of the means of communication listed above to make an obscene comment, request, suggestion, or proposal also commits criminal harassment.”
This law is fairly cut-and-dried and was coined Kiana’s Law in 2015, named after the then-13-year-old cheerleader who attempted suicide after receiving harassing and vulgar text messages. Her attempt was unsuccessful, leaving her a paraplegic with severe brain injuries.
A person convicted of harassing someone on the internet, whether it takes the form of a text message, email, social media post, or instant message, can be sentenced to up to 6 months in county jail, or a $750 fine , or both. Cyberbullying is a misdemeanor crime in Colorado.
Additionally, there may be civil remedies available to victims of cyberbullying, such as claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, harassment, and defamation.
If you or your child is a victim of cyberbullying, it’s important to take the proper steps in documenting and reporting the behavior. Here are the steps to take:
Being the victim of cyberbullying can be terrifying, and you may not know where to turn. We can help. Contact Marathon Law today for a free, confidential consultation at (303) 704-1222 or online here.