As the opportunity to connect with others at the touch of a button continues to grow in the world and our children gain access at younger and younger ages to electronic forms of communication, we must consider the ramifications of cyberbullying. Here in Florida, cyberbullying is a big problem for children and teens, just as it is a problem across the nation. But what are the Florida cyberbullying laws? Can cyberbullying be stopped through legal means? What can you do to protect your children from the cruelty we so often see on the news?
What is Cyberbullying in Florida?
First, we need to understand what cyberbullying means in a legal context in Florida. Thankfully, Florida is one of the few states that legally defines cyberbullying. According to the Florida Statutes, cyberbullying is “bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication” and includes the use of:
- and instant messages.
In an effort to try to reduce the frequency of cyberbullying in Florida, all schools are required to adopt and enforce anti-bullying policies. Again, the Florida statutes define cyberbullying against a student as behavior that:
- causes a student to feel reasonable fear of harm to body or property;
- interferes with academic performance and educational benefits;
- or disrupts the daily order of the school.
Like other forms of bullying, cyberbullying comes in many forms, including:
- threats and intimidation;
- physical violence;
- sexual, religious, or racial harassment;
- destruction of property;
- public or private humiliation;
- or social exclusion.
Furthermore, Florida cyberbullying law states that anyone—teachers, students, staff, or parents—who reports an instance of bullying in good faith is immune from a civil lawsuit for damages associated with the report. In other words, you can’t be sued for reporting a cyberbully.
Are Florida Cyberbullying Laws Treated Separately?
While I refer in this post to the Florida cyberbullying laws, it’s important to note that Florida does not classify cyberbullying as its own crime. Instead, Florida considers cyberbullying a crime of stalking. As such, cyberbullying can be considered a felony crime if the person committing the crime is a threat to the victim. Misdemeanor cyberbullying falls under the umbrella of harassment, which occurs when one person willfully cyberstalks another person repeatedly with malicious intent.
Both misdemeanor and felony cyberbullying are punishable with prison time. Misdemeanor cyberbullying carries a penalty of up to one year and a $1000 fine. Felony cyberbullies can face five years and a $5000 fine.
Now that you understand what cyberbullying is and how Florida cyberbullying laws punish it, talk to your kids.
If you suspect that your child has been the victim of cyberbullying, contact RRBH Law for a fully confidential evaluation. Don’t let your child fall victim to this crime. Call 305-800-HURT.