CyberBullying Laws in the USA
We’re all familiar with the old saying, “Kids can be cruel.” Anyone who has ever had their lunch money taken by their elementary school nemesis understands the psychological toll that bullying can inflict on a child. and CyberBullying Laws in the USA are getting more familiar and more preventative every day.
Considering that this a time period when children are struggling to establish their own sense of self esteem, a bully’s attention undoubtedly plays a role in that development. Whereas the days of the school yard dust-up could once be viewed as a rite of passage for generations of American children, the outward manifestations of a black eye, or fat lip served notice to parents and teachers that something was amiss.
This cruelty has taken on new dimensions in the world of cyberspace, however. In an environment where school districts enforce zero-tolerance policies, mean words delivered electronically have become the new medium of choice for harassing fellow students.
When looking at CyberBullying Laws in the USA one must realize that operating in a shadow cyber world, this new medium has the power to cut at children’s self esteem without parents being any the wiser. Too often, the victims of cyber bullying retreat into a miasma of self loathing that has led to tragedy in numerous instances. The response to these new electronic bullying tactics, has led to the passage of cyberbullying laws in USA.
National attention was first brought to bear on the need for laws that would protect the safety of our children against rampant electronic harassment in the aftermath of the Megan Meier case. Megan was a 13-year old Missouri girl who was the target of malicious internet bullying that originated when the mother of a fellow classmate who set up a fake MySpace account under the identity of a 16-year old boy named “Josh Evans.” The mother, Lori Drew, claimed that she set the account up to get personal information against Meier in retaliation for the girl’s spreading of gossip about her own daughter.
Megan and “Josh” became online friends although they never met in person. The tone of the correspondence changes when Drew started insulting Meir under the persona of “Josh.” The concluding messages to Megan stated that “she was a bad person and that the world would be a better place without her.” Megan responded that Josh was, “you’re the kind of boy a girl would kill yourself over.”
Tragically, she then proceeded to do just that. She was found hanging in her bedroom closet and attempts to revive her were not successful and she died the next day. It was several days later when Megan’s parents were informed of the role that Lori Drew played in their daughter’s death.
In reviewing the case, county prosecutors refused to press charges against Drew citing a lack of evidence in the case. Additionally, due to the new nature of the crime, there were not any laws on the books to govern cases of cyberbullying. Outcries over Megan’s case galvanized Missouri lawmakers to update its harassment laws. When the new law took effect, its words minced no points, “[T]he crime of harassment is to include knowingly intimidating or causing emotional distress anonymously, either by phone or electronically, or causing distress to a child.”
The new legislation comes with much stiffer penalties including felony charges when the harasser is over 21 years of age or has previously been convicted of harassment. Missouri now has, along with California, one of the toughest CyberBullying Laws on the books as a result of this instance. Over 35 states now have CyberBullying Laws in place to protect the safety of our children in the face of cyberbullying. Additionally, the “Megan Meier Cyberbullying Act,” was introduced into the House of Representatives to address the problem at the federal level.