Cyberbullying Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations | Federal (2023)

Cyberbullying is using technology to threaten, harass, embarrass or target another person. Some of the most common types of cyberbullying include:

  • Threats on online social media
  • Rude texts
  • Mean or negative tweets
  • Posting personal information and/or videos that are intended to hurt and embarrass someone

Cyberbullying also can include pictures, messages or web pages that are not taken down, after the person has requested it.

In some cases, cyberbullying actually can be considered a form of harassment. Intimidation or meanness that focus on your gender, sexual orientation, race or religion would be considered harassment. No matter if the bullying is done in person or via the Web, this type of nastiness qualifies as discrimination and is actually illegal in many states today. This means that law enforcement can get involved in extreme cases of cyberbullying, and bullies can face prosecution.

Cyberbullying has unique aspects that differentiate it from other types of bullying:

  • Persistent: Digital devices allow people to communicate all the time, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. It can be hard for children and teens who are being bullied to get any relief.
  • Permanent: Most information that is stated online is both public and permanent unless specific action is taking to remove it. Having negative online items about oneself can lead to negative effects including difficulty getting work, getting into college and getting scholarships.
  • Hard to see: Teachers and parents may be unaware of much of the bullying that occurs online because it cannot be seen or heard.

Cyberbullying Laws

There are no federal laws at this time that address bullying or cyberbullying. But bullying does overlap with discriminatory harassment if it is based upon race, color, sex, age, religion or disability. In some cases, federal stalking charges can be brought against offenders.

If the bullying become harassment as defined above, schools that receive federal funds are obligated to get this problem resolved.

At this time, cyberbullying is primarily covered by state law. Many states have enacted laws outlawing cyberstalking and cyber harassment. Also, many states are now enacting laws that explicitly outlaw cyberbullying. At least 44 states have some laws on cyberbullying.

(Video) Cyberbullying Laws

For example, the state of Massachusetts has passed a law that prohibits bullying on school grounds or at a school sponsored event. It does not matter if the bullying occurs in person or via an electronic device. Also, schools in Massachusetts are now required to develop an anti-bullying plan and to develop anti-discrimination and harassment policies.

In New Hampshire, the state statute was revised on student safety and prevention of violence, to now include harassment, bullying and cyberbullying.

A recently passed law in Texas in 2017 also is attempting to crack down on cyberbullying. This is known in Texas as David’s Law, which is named after David Molak, who committed suicide in early 2016 in San Antonio after he was bullied online. The law was recently signed by Governor Greg Abbott, and it made several changes to definitions and the requirements of school districts in how cyberbullying is reported and investigated. It also requires all Texas school districts to create policies to deal with cyberbullying, if they do not yet have them. School districts are required to offer students, parents and others with a way to report bullying incidents, whether they happen on campus or off campus. This must be able to be done anonymously, and the report does not have to be filed by someone who personally has been bullied.

David’s Law in Texas also gives school districts greater leeway on punishing students. This can include even expelling students who have been proven to have coerced other students to commit suicide.

Different Types of Cyberbullying

There are many types of cyberbullying that can eventually lead to criminal charges in the worst cases. If you or someone you know engages in these types of behaviors, a criminal charge is possible:

  • Harassment: The bully sends malicious and offensive messages to a person and does so many times. This is a form of cyberstalking in the worst cases, and involves constant threatening and rude messages. It can eventually lead to physical harassment.
  • Flaming: This activity is similar to harassment. The difference is that it is a fight that occurs online that is done via email, texts and chat. It is a form of public, online bullying that can lead to very serious outcomes with harsh language and images shared about a particular person.
  • Exclusion: This is the act of singling out a person and leaving him or her out of an online group or site. The group will then harass the person that has been left out of the group.
  • Outing: When a bully shares a person’s personal and private information, including images and video in some cases. A person has been ‘outed’ if that person’s information is widely available online.
  • Masquerading: This is where the bully creates a false identity to harass a person on an anonymous basis. The cyberbully may also impersonate another person so to send that person nasty messages in the other person’s name.
  • Fraping: When a person logs onto the victim’s social media accounts and pretends to be that person. This is a very serious offense that some may think is entertaining but it can ruin another person’s reputation. Google generally will not forget anything that has been posted even if it is deleted so this is a very serious form of cyberbullying.
  • Trolling: This is the intentional act of getting a response online by using insults and bad language on social forums and social media sites. It is common for the troll to put down the victim and try to make the person angry and respond in kind.

Note that some forms of cyberbullying also can be sexual harassment. Conduct does not need to be specifically sexual to be harassment, though. It may include the demeaning of a person because of his or her gender or sexual identity. For instance, sexual harassment may include the harassment of a person because girls are not ‘supposed’ to take engineering classes or be good in math. Or, girls should not play a specific sport. Another example is where a cell phone is used to abuse a person by saying she is a ‘whore,’ or sending out negative photographs of the student in a sexual manner. It also is common for the abuser to make an actual videotape of abuse that occurred in person, and then post that on social media for others to see. This leads to a high level of humiliation in the victim and has led to self harm in the worst instances.

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Cyberbullying and Federal Civil Rights

While no federal statutes exist regarding bullying, if a federally funded university does not respond to harassment of students, civil rights laws are being violated. Some of the civil rights laws that could be violated in extreme cases of cyberbullying include:

  • Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Federally funded schools, including primary and secondary schools and colleges and universities, must take steps to resolve any bullying that constitutes harassment. Some steps may include:

  • Instituting policies that prohibit bullying, cyberbullying and harassment.
  • Instituting grievance procedures so students can file complaints of harassment
  • Implement training for staff so they can ID harassment
  • Determine consequences for serial harassers and bullies

Note that pertaining to sexual harassment in schools, Title IX does prohibit any discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. Sexual harassment is actually a type of sexual discrimination. Thus, sexual harassment is under the protection of Title IX. Title IX requires a school to respond to any hostile environment that happens in their programs that is due to sexual harassment. It does not matter where or in which form the harassment occurs. So, if sexual harassment occurs in cyberbullying that happens outside of school, it is still creating a hostile environment for the victim. In such cases, it is highly likely that the school would be mandated to respond under Title IX.

Also know that some states have outlawed sexual harassment separately, and some school districts also have policies that ban sexual harassment.

Federal Cyberbullying Law Proposed

The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act was introduced in the House of Representatives in 2009, but it has not yet been passed. Meier was a teen who killed herself in 2006 after aggressive cyberbullying by a neighbor. The law would prohibit any communication intended to intimidate, harass or cause emotional distress to anyone via electronic devices or computers.

Federal Stalking Law Definition and Sentences

In extreme cases of cyberbullying, federal stalking charges can be filed. In such a case, a person is put in reasonable fear of death or serious injury to herself, her family, or a spouse/partner.

Sentences in such cases can be anywhere from five to 20 years. Twenty years can be the punishment if the stalking leads to some type of permanent disfigurement or a bodily injury that threatens the person’s life. The person may get up to 10 years if there is serious bodily harm or if the person uses a weapon.

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Cyberbullying and Filing a Lawsuit

People who have been victimized by cyberbullies may have difficulty in getting the person to stop. One possible alternative is to file a civil lawsuit. Parents of the victim can sue for physical and mental damages. In this case, the parent would have to prove that the victim has suffered both physical and mental pain. With a civil lawsuit, it also is possible to file for an injunction that keeps the bully away from the child both on and offline.

Some parents who do not want to spend a lot of money with an attorney eventually file a small claim action in a civil court. This can be accomplished without paying for a lawyer. Every state has a small claims court, where you generally can make a claim of up to $2000. This is not a lot of money, but filing a small claims lawsuit may get the attention of the cyberbully and/or his parents.

To prove that cyberbullying has occurred in a lawsuit, the parents would need to have evidence pulled from social media and message forums. Simply calling someone a derogatory name on Facebook can be deemed slander under the law. A single copy of a conversation should be enough proof for the judge. If you can illustrate evidence of the cyberbullying and also physical results of the depression and anxiety in the teen, this could be a strong case.

Cyberbullying News & Resources

Charges dropped against girls in Florida cyberbullying case

Florida prosecutors dropped charges two weeks ago against two girls who were accused of stalking a classmate who committed suicide

Charges in Rebecca Sedwick suicide point to tipping point in bullying cases

The cyberbullying case in Florida, where two girls were charged with felony stalking after a girl killed herself could lead other federal agencies to file similar charges in other cases.

(Video) Cybercrime

School district investigates cyberbullying case

An Annapolis MD high school student took pictures of another student without her knowing it, and the photo ended up on Facebook. The student texted the image with a rude comment to other students.

New App ‘Sit With Us’ Tackles Lunchtime Bullying (

If you watch TV and movies, you know that lunchtime bullying in middle and high school is a common plot line in Hollywood. But there is no doubt that these storylines are based upon real life across the country.

What is Cyberbullying? has authored a fantastic piece all about Cyberbullying.

Educators Guide to Combat Bullying & Bully Prevention

(Video) Know Your Legal Defense Against Cyberbullying

Excellent resource by the group at need to teach students the different types of bully behavior so they can identify it and communicate with adults to get it stopped.

CyberBullying Laws by State

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming



What is anti cyber bullying law? ›

It specifically references cyberbullying, or "bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication". The law does not include criminal sanctions. It directs school districts to draft policies and to report instances of bullying. Schools can suspend or expel students found guilty of bullying.

What is the alarming cases of cyberbullying? ›

38 percent of people experience cyberbullying on social media platforms daily. Foreign national students experience more cyberbullying than their locally-born counterparts. Cyberbullying is the number one concern for school staff. 25 percent of students who are cyberbullied turn to self-harm to cope.

What is the punishment of cybercrime? ›

A misdemeanor conviction can result in relatively minor fines of a few hundred dollars, and possibly up to a $1,000 or more, while felony convictions can have fines that exceed $100,000. Jail or prison. A person convicted of certain internet or computer crimes may also face a jail or prison sentence.

Is online harassment a crime in the US? ›

Cyberbullying or Cyberstalking as Harassment

Cyberbullying tends to fall in a grey area that's harmful but not yet criminal. However, it often doesn't take much to cross the line into a criminal act when the behavior makes the targeted victim fear for their safety or suffer emotional distress.

What are the emotional effects of cyber? ›

The effects of cyberbullying also include mental health issues, increased stress and anxiety, depression, acting out violently, and low self-esteem. Cyberbullying can also result in long-lasting emotional effects, even if the bullying has stopped.

Which social media site has the most reports of cyberbullying? ›

Higher Risk

Of all the social networks, kids on YouTube are the most likely to be cyberbullied at 79 percent, followed by Snapchat at 69 percent, TikTok at 64 percent, and Facebook at 49 percent.

Which country has the most cases of cyberbullying? ›

The top 3 countries where cyberbullying is the most prevalent are India, Brazil, and the United States, but it is a common occurrence everywhere. Social media cyberbullying statistics show that over 65% of parents around the world cite cyberbullying on social media as one of their greatest worries.

Is cyber crime a criminal offense? ›

Cybercrime is any criminal activity that involves a computer, networked device or a network. While most cybercrimes are carried out in order to generate profit for the cybercriminals, some cybercrimes are carried out against computers or devices directly to damage or disable them.

Is cyber crime a federal offense? ›

Computer-related crimes are illegal at both the federal and state level in California.

How is cyber crime prosecuted? ›

Jurisdiction & Extradition

The only effective authority in the United States to bring cyber criminals to justice is the FBI and Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) unit. Unfortunately the FBI and HSI often have challenges with getting known cyber criminals extradited to the USA for prosecution.

Can you sue for harassment on social media? ›

Yes, you can sue for social media defamation. However, while it may seem natural to want to sue the social media platform for defamation, your best option is to file a defamation lawsuit against the individual poster or commenter.

Can I press charges for harassment? ›

Reporting harassment to the police

You can report harassment to the police. They can charge someone with criminal harassment if: the person has harassed you more than once. the harassment made you feel distressed or alarmed.

Can someone go to jail for harassment? ›

If the offence is harassment (putting people in fear of violence) or stalking (involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress): the maximum sentence is 10 years' custody. if racially or religiously aggravated, the maximum sentence is 14 years' custody.

What are some of the traumatic effects of cyberbullying? ›

What Are the Mental Effects of Cyberbullying?
  • Depression. Feeling down and unmotivated are definite effects of cyberbullying. ...
  • Anxiety. ...
  • Low Self-esteem. ...
  • Isolation and Secrecy. ...
  • Poor Concentration and Focus. ...
  • Anger and Aggression. ...
  • Feelings of Helplessness.
31 Aug 2021

What is the conclusion of cyberbullying? ›

In conclusion, awareness is the key to prevent online harassment. We should make the children aware from an early age so they are always cautious. Moreover, parents must monitor their children's online activities and limit their usage. Most importantly, cyberbullying must be reported instantly without delay.

What are the social impact of cyberbullying? ›

Victims of cyberbullying can experience wide-ranging effects, including mental health issues, poor academic performance, a desire to drop out of school, and even suicidal ideation. Bullies themselves are also at an increased risk of issues such as substance abuse and experiencing violence.

What country has the lowest rate of cyberbullying? ›

The lowest rate is in Greece, with only five percent of adolescents report having been victim to cyberbullying. The digital space can also introduces new risks and stress sources into young people's lives.

What are the latest statistics representing the number of victims of cyberbullying? ›

59% of US teenagers have experienced bullying or harassment online. 14.5% of children between the ages of 9 and 12 have been cyberbullied. 66.3% of tweens tried to help the victim of cyberbullying.

What is the most popular social media website? ›

With nearly 3 billion monthly users, Facebook is inarguably the largest and most popular social media platform in the world.

Is cyberbullying illegal in Sweden? ›

Although only a few of the cyberbullying cases reported arrive at Court, Sweden protects people from these type of crimes. The regulation in Sweden establishes that: “everything considered illegal offline it is also considered illegal online” preventing the creation of a legal gap between online and offline crimes.

› teens › cyberbullying ›

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Cyberbullying can range from embarrassing or cruel online posts or digital pictures, to online threats, harassment, and negative comments, to stalking through e...

What is cyber bullying law in the Philippines? ›

We must also keep in mind that there is no cyberbullying law in the Philippines. Cyberbullying is a type of bullying in the Anti-Bullying Act. And not all cyberbullying activities are punished under RA 10627. I see many cyberbullying activities on social media.

Is cyberbullying a crime in Malaysia? ›

While there is no specific law against cyberbullying, the online posting or sharing of obscene, indecent, false or offensive content is regulated under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998. Those found guilty may be fined up to RM50,000, jailed for up to a year or made to suffer both penalties.

Is cyberbullying free speech protected under the First Amendment? ›

The First Amendment protects Freedom of Speech, but not all speech is protected by the Constitution. You can't just say whatever you want in certain circumstances, and one of those certain circumstances is bullying. When speech is used to harass or bully someone, it is not protected by the law.

Does California have cyberbullying laws? ›

If your kids use electronic devices to bully others, they may face criminal charges for cyberbullying. Like in many other states cyber bullying is unlawful in California. Prosecutors may bring criminal charges for either posting personal information to cause fear or using electronic devices to harass others.

Can you go to jail for cyber crime? ›

Penalties, if found guilty, can be imprisonment of up to three years and/or up-to Rs 2 lakh fine. Section 66F: Acts of cyber terrorism. An individual convicted of a crime can face imprisonment of up to life.

What offenses does RA 10175 penalize? ›

(a) Offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems: (1) Illegal Access. – The access to the whole or any part of a computer system without right. (2) Illegal Interception.

What is the punishment for cyber crime in Philippines? ›

Cyber-squatting shall be punished with imprisonment of prision mayor, or a fine of at least Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00) up to a maximum amount commensurate to the damage incurred, or both: Provided, That if it is committed against critical infrastructure, the penalty of reclusion temporal, or a fine of at ...

Do we have law on cyberbullying? ›

A person who commits the offence under this section is liable to a fine not exceeding RM50,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year,” he said.

Is emotional abuse a crime in Malaysia? ›

Abuse does not only entail physical means, BUT also INVOLVES mental and emotional abuse. In Malaysia, domestic violence are governed by Domestic Violence Act 1994 (DVA) which aims to protect victims of domestic violence.

What are the factors of cyberbullying? ›

Whereas low self-esteem is usually linked to traditional bullying, many cyberbullies demonstrate a high perception of self-esteem in perceiving their relationships with peers as satisfying. However, feelings of loneliness and a perception of unsafety at school were often linked to cyberbullying.

Which area of civil law could be used in the case of cyberbullying? ›

Cyberbullying can be addressed under civil law or criminal law, based on the situation. Civil law: This is the branch of law that deals with property rights, personal dignity and freedom from injury. Under civil law, there are three approaches to cyberbullying: A cyberbully may be engaged in defamation.

Is the Bill of Rights effective? ›

The Bill of Rights has proven to be one of the most influential documents in contemporary history, codifying the theory of natural rights, which holds that humans are granted certain freedoms and liberties by God, and that the state should not have the power to usurp or otherwise infringe upon those rights.

How is freedom of speech related to cyberbullying? ›

Cyberbullying presents First Amendment issues because the statutes often criminalize speech and some of the language in certain laws and regulations arguably is overly broad or vague. For example, the New York Court of Appeals invalidated Albany County's cyberbullying law as overbroad in People v. Marquan M.

Is online harassment a crime in California? ›

653.2 PC – Electronic Cyber Harassment Law in California. California Penal Code 653.2 PC makes it a crime to send electronic communications (such as emails or text messages) with the intent of placing the recipient in reasonable fear for his or her safety or that of his or her immediate family.

Is text harassment a crime? ›

A person found guilty of text harassment may face only misdemeanor charges and minimal jail time if the harassment was minor. Individuals with a documented history of harassment or those already under a restraining order are likely to receive harsher judgments.

Is online harassment illegal in California? ›

California's cyberstalking laws make it a crime to stalk somebody using an electronic communication device and are a form of online harassment through the anonymity of the Internet.


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