How to Report Cyberbullying
Reporting cyberbullying is critical to protecting both the victims of current cyberbullying and any possible future victims. Furthermore, timely reporting can help hold the bully accountable and reduce the risk of further damage. Where you report cyberbullying can depend on the type of behavior and the crime. At Social Media Victims Law Center, we recommend reporting to online service providers, law enforcement, and schools.
Cyberbullying can occur on any online platform at any time. It creates immense stress for many young people, who may feel humiliated, distressed, or saddened by the cruel treatment at the hands of their peers. Furthermore, cyberbullying increases the risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts.
When adults respond quickly to cyberbullying, they can help protect children and reduce instances of bullying. They can also hold the perpetrator accountable and prevent this behavior from hurting others. At Social Media Victims Law Center, we offer advocacy and support for victims of cyberbullying, including helping you to report cyberbullying and fight for your child’s protection.
Immediate Steps to Take Following Cyberbullying
Any time cyberbullying occurs, you need to take action. The longer cyberbullying continues, the greater the impact it can have on your child. According to the Journal of Adolescence, cyberbullying may have the following effects:
- Increased anxiety, including social anxiety
- Higher levels of stress
- Greater risk of dropping out of school
- Risk of engaging in delinquent behavior
- Substance abuse problems
Cyberbullying is every bit as serious as in-person physical or verbal bullying. Addressing it quickly is critical to protecting your child’s mental health.
Save Evidence of the Interaction
If your child is the victim of cyberbullying, take screenshots of all bullying interactions, including text messages, online discussions, content on social media platforms, and direct messages. Save any negative pictures or images in a separate folder. Mark that evidence with the date and time.
If you have a child suffering from cyberbullying, they may not want you to save this material, especially if your child feels ashamed about those interactions. However, saving screenshots protects evidence and helps prove your child was bullied. Do not allow your child to delete those screenshots. You may want to save them to your own device to ensure they do not disappear.
Block the Bully
After collecting evidence, block the bully on all platforms. Cyberbullying is associated with many negative mental health outcomes, including an increased risk of depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Many of today’s teens rely heavily on online interactions for social connection. Those interactions can create a cascade of mental health challenges when they turn sour. Blocking the bully means that the bullying cannot continue.
Ensure you collect evidence before blocking the bully since some platforms may delete or hide past interactions with blocked individuals. Do not store that evidence on the platform. Also, do not forward those messages to others until law enforcement, school administration, or other authorities ask.
Monitor Your Child
If you know your child is dealing with cyberbullying, monitor them carefully for signs of depression or suicidal ideation. Keep an eye on your child’s social media accounts to ensure the bullying does not continue. In some cases, children may need to take a break from social media. You may also need to tighten permissions on their accounts to avoid further bullying interactions. Savvy bullies may try to use others’ accounts to contact them.
Prevention is half the battle for protecting your child from cyberbullying and its fallout. Make sure you know the warning signs, including any indication that bullying continues despite your efforts to step in.
Check Your Child's Settings
To help protect your child against future bullying, check their settings in all apps and platforms. Often, you can control who can message your child. For example, you can select platform settings so only friends and contacts can contact your child directly. Follow the instructions included on the app to choose the appropriate settings.
Do Not Respond to Bullying Messages
Avoid issuing a response to a bully. You or your child may be highly tempted to respond. However, you do not want to end up in trouble yourself. Encourage your child to report any bullying behavior to you at the first sign of it rather than allowing the situation to progress.
Reporting Cyberbullying to Online Service Providers
Review the terms of service provided by the online platform, including social media providers. Cyberbullying often violates the terms that users agreed to when signing up for the platform. If the user violates those terms, report them directly to the social media site. Most platforms will offer a “contact” or “report” option that allows you to report those interactions quickly.
Reporting Cyberbullying to Law Enforcement
Some types of cyberbullying are not considered crimes, including name-calling or excluding someone from online groups or interactions. Others, however, are crimes. You need to report cyberbullying to local law enforcement in the event of any of the following:
- The bully has issued threats of violence against you, your child, or a third party
- The bully has sent sexually explicit images or pornography, especially of a minor
- The bullying has engaged in online harassment or stalking
- The bullying includes anything that constitutes a hate crime
Call your local non-emergency line and report the bullying. Let officers know what was said, when the interactions occurred, and what platforms were used. Officers may ask you to provide screenshots and evidence of the interactions.
Reporting Cyberbullying in Schools
Now more than ever, children are surrounded by technology. They use their phones or laptops in class. Some students take classes online or complete online assignments during their regular school days. Unfortunately, that also makes cyberbullying more prevalent than ever.
When cyberbullying occurs on a school platform, including a school message board, online classroom, or website, you can report it to the school. You can also report cyberbullying when perpetrated by a student at your child’s school or another institution. Call the school directly and ask to speak to a principal about the bullying your child has faced.
Be prepared to ask for any necessary accommodations, including steps to ensure your child’s safety. For example, you might ask for the bully’s removal from your child’s class or the option for your child to block the bully on school-sponsored platforms and messaging apps.
Research Cyberbullying Laws in Your State
Familiarize yourself with cyberbullying laws in your state. What constitutes cyberbullying according to your state laws? How does the state define online harassment? What about your child’s school?
Consider the following questions:
- Does your state specifically include off-campus harassment or bullying as part of its cyberbullying policy?
- Does the state have criminal sanctions for cyberbullying or online harassment?
- Does your state mandate school policies regarding cyberbullying?
- What are the penalties for cyberbullying in your state?
By closely examining your state’s laws, you can also better understand the rights of you and your child in dealing with cyberbullying behaviors.
Legal Representation for Cyberbullying
If your child has faced cyberbullying, your family deserves representation that can help protect their rights and ensure you get the justice you deserve. Contact The Social Media Victims Law Center to learn more about your next steps and how you can protect your child in the future.
Matthew P. Bergman
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