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Teens criminally charged for cyberbullying

Criminal charges for cyberbullying minors has long been possible, but now we have signs of a trend. Example: Two Florida teens, 15 and 16, received felony charges for creating a fake profile and posting “lewd comments and obscene pictures” of a fellow student, a local TV station reported. They were charged with aggravated stalking of a minor under 16. Of course “most of these laws don’t use the term ‘cyberbullying’,” said Nancy Willard of the Center for Safe & Responsible Internet Use.” These are criminal statutes that address very harmful speech [but] most, if not all … have been revised to ensure that they cover electronic speech or simply can be applied to these situations.” Here’s the Florida statute. Reading the news story, I noticed the minors charged in this cases were identified by name. In the past, news outlets have typically protected minors’ identities in crime reporting. Absent from the NBC-2 report is any backstory, which is increasingly important because research shows that, very often, the digital evidence of conflict among students is not the full story. Sometimes it’s retaliation or the continuation of a conflict (which is two-way or multidirectional aggression rather than bullying, which is unidirectional from bully to target), in which case the alleged bullies apparent in the digital evidence may not be the only aggressors in the complete story. Some just-released research from the UK found “a strong correlation between pupils who rated themselves as victims also seeing themselves as cyberbullies,” the Daily Mail reports.

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  1. Knowing the full back story is important. More and more we’re seeing in-school bullying migrating to online and vise-versa. Where does the line of responsibility end for in-school bullying that comes to a point in an online setting?

    January 27, 2011

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