It’s no wonder that many teens are wrestling with this problem—they see the adults in their lives saying mean and nasty things to others on a regular basis.
Do your part to model appropriate behavior and address any hurtful language when it comes up.
We get a lot of emails, phone calls, and comments on this blog from adults who are being bullied though technology. We know that cyberbullying negatively affects adults too.
They stress to us that cyberbullying is not just an adolescent problem. It’s just that we spend the majority of our efforts studying how this problem impacts school-aged youth due to their tenuous developmental stage.
If you are ever afraid for your safety, you need to contact law enforcement to investigate.
They can determine whether any threats made are credible.
Many web sites expressly prohibit harassment and if you report it through their established mechanisms, the content and/or bully should be removed from the site in a timely manner.
Most of us can’t afford to take those actions on principle alone.
In Wisconsin, for example, it is a misdemeanor if someone uses computerized communication systems to “frighten, intimidate, threaten, abuse, or harass another person.” It is also against the law to “harass annoy, or offend another person.” See what the laws in your state are to determine if the police should get involved.
If the threats or comments are detrimental to your health, safety, or occupation, you might want to consult with an attorney who specializes in harassment, defamation of character, false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress, or similar types of civil action.
Another problem associated with pursuing a bully through civil action is that, even if you are successful and a judge or jury rules in your favor, it can be difficult to determine an appropriate damage amount.
I served as an expert witness in a cyberbullying case in the summer of 2008.