How Can Parents Help Protect Against Cyberbullying? 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Technology has completely revolutionized the way we live and communicate. Unfortunately, ease of communication has a dark side. Cyberbullying has become commonplace, with around half of all children admitting that they have been bullied online. Cyberbullying can cause low self-esteem, depression and, at its worst, suicidal thoughts.  In 2012, Canadian teenager Amanda Todd, posted a video on YouTube that garnered over 17 million views. In it, she detailed her struggles with self-harm and bullying. A month after she made the video, she hanged herself in her home. She was fifteen. In today’s technology-driven world, kids have continuous access to one another, creating a platform for relentless teasing. Parents must be more vigilant than ever to ensure their children’s safety and emotional well-being.

Protect Your Child Against Cyberbullying

Parents may feel at a loss in what is still relatively uncharted territory. But being on top of the situation will help keep your child from being a victim – or perpetrator – of online bullying. Here’s what to do.
  1. Stay Involved
The internet is a wonderful tool for studying and connecting with others, but it’s also full of dangers. As a parent, it’s your duty to be actively involved in your child’s internet activity. There are several ways in which to stay involved and be aware of how your child is communicating – align their values with your personal parenting philosophy. For example, you could review your child’s social media activity together once a week, or set blocks on certain websites. At the very least, your children should need your permission before setting up accounts on any website. The more you know about what’s happening online, the better equipped you’ll be to handle potential challenges.
  1. Talk to Your Child About Responsible Internet Use
Each parent sets their own internet rules. But all parents should encourage their children not to create relationships with people they don’t know in real life. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, such as an online pen pal organized through a reputable organization. Teach your children to never accept friend requests from people they don’t know, and to show you any suspicious messaging or activity. When it comes to posting, teach your children that everything they publish is out there permanently – even with Snapchat. Even if you delete a post, you never know who has taken a screenshot or other measures to share it. Encourage your children to think carefully about what they post and when. Here’s an example of an internet-use rule. Before posting, ask yourself: Is it relevant? Is it polite? Is it appropriate? If they can’t answer yes to all three questions, they shouldn’t post it.
  1. Have Access to Your Child’s Phone
This is a tricky one for parents, especially when they want their children to feel autonomous and trusted. But knowing how to check your child’s phone is important in today’s world, especially if you notice behavioral changes in your child. Use your own parenting philosophy to guide how, when, and if you check your child’s messages and apps, but always know how in case the situation warrants it.
  1. Keep Records
If your child tells you about cyberbullying, take immediate action. If the bully attends the same school as your child, talk to a teacher or administrator. Many schools are expanding their cyberbullying policies to include what happens outside of classrooms, but rules vary by state, even by municipality. If contacting a school isn’t helpful, go to the source and send a certified “cease and desist” letter to the bully’s parents. Include photocopies of evidence, such as text conversations or social media comments. Certifying the letter helps tell the parent’s you’re serious about getting the behavior to stop, and they can be held liable. Finally, if sending a formal letter doesn’t stop, go to the local police and ask to file a report, and contact an attorney for further guidance.
Posted by at 5:12 pm

My Child Is Being Bullied at School. Are There Legal Repercussions?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Bullying is a harmful act that can cause long-term emotional and physical effects on our children. The law defines bullying as any aggressive, purposeful behavior that’s intended to frighten, threaten, or harm another child. It’s important to understand the distinction between children “picking on” one another and an actual act of bullying. Specifically, bullying can occur in situations such as:
  • One student waiting in an area for the express purpose of intimidating another
  • Taking money or other personal belongings through force or aggression
  • Using intimidation to force a fellow student to complete homework or give answers
  • Initiating a physical altercation with another student
Some parents still dismiss bullying, saying it’s a childish lark and normal phase of development. But modern bullying, especially online, has created an atmosphere where students have even turned to suicide and other violent extremes. States and local municipalities have begun to enforce anti-bullying measures to protect other children from harm.

Bullying in Schools: Who’s Liable?

Liability in bullying cases can be hard to assign. Several parties may be held responsible for acts of bullying, from the child him or herself to the parents or the school system. School officials, for instance, are required to create a safe environment for their students at all times. When bullying happens on school property, an attorney may first look at the district’s responsibility. If a school’s teachers or administrators knew about a bullying situation but did nothing to prevent it, they may be charged for any general or special damages. If the school didn’t know about a bullying situation or the incident didn’t take place on school grounds, liability falls on the child or the child’s parents. A student’s parents may be liable, for example, if they were aware of the misconduct, condoned it, or encouraged the behavior in any way. A bullied child generally needs to have tangible evidence of suffering or injury to collect on a personal injury claim. He or she must show evidence of physical injury or loss of valuable property. Intangible losses are harder to prove in court, such as suffering purely emotional injuries and distress. Thus, this kind of hardship is less likely to result in damages.

What Are the Legal Repercussions for Bullying?

In light of recent headlines detailing the consequences of bullying, most states have instituted some kind of anti-bullying law. Others are currently considering other forms of legislation. Texas mandates that school districts make and enforce their own anti-bullying policies. Those who are in violation of school policy may be expelled, be transferred, or face additional disciplinary action. In cases where bullying becomes criminal (theft, defacing public property, assault, etc.), the bully could face time in a juvenile facility.

A Note About Cyber-Bullying

Today’s information age means students face new bullying threats online. Cyberbullying refers to acts that intimidate, harass, or humiliate on the internet. To protect your kids from this phenomenon, consider implementing the following measures: Monitor social media usage. Without caution, everything your children post will be available to everyone else online. Some users are just looking to harass others, and running into this kind of interaction can be devastating for kids who won’t understand why someone is being mean. Restrict chat/forum activity. Similar to social media sites, posting on public forums or open chats may be exciting for young kids who feel like they’re interacting with the entire world. Of course, this also makes them a target for bullies who think it’s funny to be mean regardless of the conversation.

Legal Action

For legal action to be taken, these threats must be intense or persistent enough to make the victim feel unsafe. Talk to a personal injury attorney for more info about your options. Your child’s emotional and physical well-being are of upmost importance. If you feel this is being threatened due to a school’s or parent’s negligence, you may have grounds for a civil lawsuit. Contact our office for a free initial consultation.
Posted by at 10:47 pm