In the early days of social media, there was a consensus that the virtual world was not the real world. In other words, things that happened on the Internet did not represent reality. But when people started to act in the real world on events that took place on the Internet, all of that changed. Now 49 states have laws on the books that protect against cyber bullying and other digital crimes, and 22 of those states even mention cyber bullying specifically.
What Is Cyber Bullying?
You might have read about a pre-teen girl who was bullied online by a group of other pre-teens to the point where the girl took her own life. Bullying is considered the grounds for a personal injury lawsuit when the bullying:
- The defendant is not upholding their end of their relationship with the plaintiff – In general terms, people owe it to each other to allow everyone to go about their business without being bothered. Bullying breaks this agreement by preventing someone from going on about their day without incident.
- The defendant breaks their side of the relationship – People do not have to know each other to have an understanding or relationship between them. Even if you don’t know someone, you do not have the right to impede their progress towards completing their day.
- An injury occurs when the defendant breaks their side of the relationship – Even if what the defendant did was not directly done to the plaintiff, the defendant is still responsible for any injuries that occur to a plaintiff through indirect means such as writing letters or posting information online.
- There was a real injury caused by the defendant – If a defendant threatens the health and well-being of the plaintiff online and then physically follows through on that threat, then the defendant is responsible for their actions.
Is Cyber Bullying Covered By Tort Laws?
The punishments for cyber bullying, even in the 22 states that mention cyber bullying specifically, are not very strong. However, many personal injury attorneys argue that since cyber bullying meets all of the criteria for a personal injury case, then victims should be able to file personal injury lawsuits against their aggressors.
Who Gets Cited In A Cyber Bullying Case?
Parents are always held accountable for their children’s actions, especially when those actions have been brought to the parents’ attention. If a victim goes to the bully’s parents to disclose what is going on, then the parents become just as liable as the bully for anything that happens to the victim. While it is not unusual for a cyber bullying lawsuit to name only the bully and not the parents, victims will have much more success getting compensated for their pain and suffering if they sue the parents as well.
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Cyber bullying is a very real danger for children who use the Internet. Parents of victims and bullies need to keep a watch over their children to either report abusive
behavior, or be the reason that the abusive behavior stops. It is a tragedy when a child dies due to cyber bullying. But the parents of victims need to know that if the criminal courts will not do anything about what has happened, then there is still a chance for justice through civil court system.