With constant access to technology, including handheld devices and social media sites, it’s perhaps no surprise that cyberbullying has become a pervasive problem in recent years. Indeed, one study indicates that about 50 percent of children have experienced cyberbullying at least once in their lifetime. Not only is cyberbullying damaging for a child’s psychological wellbeing, but it may also be illegal. If you are facing charges for cyberbullying in Massachusetts, our Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer at The Law Office of Paul R. Moraski can help.
What Is Cyberbullying?
As defined by StopBullying.gov, cyberbullying is bullying that occurs over digital devices, such as cellphones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying occurs on social media sites, through text messages, via email, on online forums and message boards, and through online gaming communication systems.
While the state of Massachusetts does not have a specific statute that refers to cyberbullying, criminal harassment is against the law. Criminal harassment refers to repeated willful and malicious conduct that is directed at and causes distress in a person. Individual schools and school districts may also maintain bullying or cyberbullying policies.
Examples of Cyberbullying in MA
Cyberbullying can refer to a range of behaviors that are taken to intimidate, threaten, or harass another person. Some common examples of cyberbullying include:
- Posting a rumor of someone online and sharing it across various online channels
- Telling someone that the world would be better off without them or encouraging self-harm or suicide
- Posting mean or hateful comments or content about a person’s characteristics online
- Creating a hateful website about someone
- Posting mean or hurtful pictures or videos of someone
- Threatening to “expose” someone by sharing a private photo or information about them
Penalties for Cyberbullying
Engaging in criminal harassment is a crime that can result in penalties. Criminal harassment in Massachusetts can be penalized by a fine of up to $1,000 and between two years and six months in jail. Engaging in harassing behavior using a telephone or another electronic means of communication could also result in a fine of up to $500 or/and up to three months in jail.
In addition to criminal charges that are brought forth by the state, a teenager who is engaging in cyberbullying may be penalized by the school (district) as well, which could result in suspension or expulsion from school, removal from teams or clubs, or other disciplinary measures.
What to Do if Charged with Cyberbullying in MA
Cyberbullying can have serious negative effects on young people and therefore is rarely tolerated. If you or your teen is facing charges for cyberbullying in our state, we strongly recommend consulting with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible who can help you to understand your legal options and take action. At The Law Office of Paul R. Moraski, our lawyer is here to defend you against charges and protect your rights. For your initial consultation, please call our law firm directly at (978) 397-0011 or send us a message online at your convenience.