The Consequences of Cyberbullying

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  • 0:04 What Is Cyberbullying?
  • 0:52 Legal Consequences
  • 3:06 Socio-emotional Consequences
  • 4:29 Academic Consequences
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, we'll cover both the legal ramifications and the responsibility of teachers and staff when they receive reports of cyberbullying. We'll also look at the emotional and academic consequences for students.

What Is Cyberbullying?

In your social studies class, you notice that James has been withdrawn lately. He sits in the back of class with his hood up and doesn't talk to anyone. Later, in the hallway, you see a group of girls taunting him with a picture from social media. You move over to intervene, but the girls walk away and James insists that nothing's wrong. Some students, however, start showing a series of exchanges humiliating James online. What do you do? You think this might be cyberbullying, so you decide to report it to your principle.

Cyberbullying is the process of exerting power over another person online to induce emotional harm. What happens if you discover cyberbullying? That's what we're going to be covering today, the consequences of bullying. To start, let's take a closer look at what happens in the school and the legal responsibilities you have as an adult.

Legal Consequences

Every state has its own bullying laws, and, as a teacher, you're required to comply with them. Although there are no federal laws directly covering bullying, the federal government does outline the main points that should be covered in state bullying laws. Each state should include the purpose of the law and what behavior falls under the law, as well as procedures for monitoring, reporting, and the intended consequences.

As of 2016, all states have laws against bullying, but only 23 states have laws that explicitly describe cyberbullying. Some, however, include 'electronic harassment' as a form of bullying without categorizing it as cyberbullying.

It's up to the state to decide what consequences are needed and to the school to implement them. Under state law, all schools must investigate reports of bullying quickly and thoroughly, and many are required to have a clear system on reporting incidents. Schools also are required to be trained in bullying prevention and spreading awareness among students.

During an incident, any party involved should be interviewed. Some schools have a zero tolerance policy, where even a first offense in bullying is treated with extreme consequences, like suspension, expulsion, or pressing criminal charges. Such policies, however, have generally been found to be ineffective in preventing unwanted behavior, including bullying. Bullies often have their own emotional problems and are using bullying to manage them. Therefore, counseling for all parties involved, followed by rehabilitation, is a more effective consequence for bullies.

A few bullying cases do fall under federal discriminatory harassment laws. These laws protect people from being harassed due to sexual orientation, gender, religion, disabilities, or race. In these cases, the school must investigate immediately, provide a safe environment for the victim, and take measures to prevent retaliation.

A few bullying cases will also have criminal consequences. Any case involving a direct threat of violence, hate crimes, or child pornography must be reported to the police immediately. This can happen frequently during cyberbullying, since adolescents may send each other inappropriate text messages, which can get easily shared on the Internet. An adolescent sending a topless photograph to her boyfriend may soon find herself in trouble with the law.

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