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Cyberbullying on the Rise

April 05, 2022

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Criminal Prosecutions Targeting a Rise in Cyberbullying Make Representation by Premier Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers Essential

The world has certainly changed when a leading topic under discussion is bullying. The fear of losing your lunch money to the bully in the schoolyard has given way to the use of smart phones and social media to intimidate and harass victims on a much larger scale. Twenty-five percent of students report being the target of cyberbullying. Approximately 16 percent of students confess to having engaged in acts of cyberbullying. The statistics reflect an increase in the number of incidents reported to school officials and others in recent years.

What may be contributing to the increase in the incidents of cyberbullying is the fact children and teenagers now spend more time online. A recent survey found that 97.5 percent of children in middle school reported being online at some point during the month prior to responding to the survey. Instagram turned out to be popular, with 42 percent of the students surveyed, while 33 percent of them acknowledged using Facebook regularly. A picture that appears to be developing from the data collected in various surveys and studies leads to the following conclusions about cyberbullying:

  • Cyberbullying is gender neutral: Girls appear to be as likely as boys to become victims of a cyberbully.
  • Cyberbullying causes harm: Low self-esteem, anger, frustration and suicide have been attributed to cyberbullying.
  • Cyberbullying may indicate other issues: School behavior problems, substance abuse and juvenile delinquency have been noted in students engaging in electronic bullying activities.

Pennsylvania has enacted laws to address cyberbullying. Schools are required to have policies in place relating to bullying in general. Among the requirements of law is that each school reviews its enforcement and disciplinary policy with students at least once during the school year.

The fact that cyberbullying is not limited to conduct on school property has led prosecutors to target bullying activities with criminal laws that prohibit stalking and harassment. Harassment occurs when someone communicates with another person with the intent to alarm or annoy that person. Stalking charges might result from multiple acts by an individual intended to cause a victim to be in fear of physical or emotional injury. Harassment and stalking are serious criminal offenses that could result in fines or imprisonment and leave a person with a criminal record. There are, however, defenses that a person facing criminal charges might be able to use. For example, the acts prosecutors allege to be unlawful might, in fact, have a legitimate purpose or without intending to annoy or alarm the victim.

The tough Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim know the importance of mounting a strong defense to criminal charges arising from allegations of cyberbullying. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with the premier criminal defense attorneys in Philadelphia. Call (215) 486-0123 for an appointment, or you may contact us through our website.


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