The Schoolyard Lawyer: What is Cyberbullying?


Cyberbullying, as defined in the Massachusetts Anti-Bullying Law, is “bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication.” The law sets forth many different means of cyberbullying, but the most common uses are via text messages, emails, phone calls, Social Media Websites such as Facebook, Formspring, and MySpace, or blog entries. The main difference between bullying and cyberbullying is that bullying requires that the prohibited behavior be repeated whereas cyberbullying only requires there to be a single instance of the prohibited behavior.

Cyberbullying is particularly dangerous for a number of reasons. First, it allows children to bully or harass another quickly and easily. Second, it reaches a lot more people in a short period of time and is often done in a manner so others can join in on the bullying. Third, because it does not require face to face confrontations, it emboldens many to say things they normally would not say when face to face with the victim. And finally, because it is written down, it often will have an even greater impact on the victim than verbal bullying.

Cyberbullying is prohibited under the new Massachusetts Anti-Bullying law even if the prohibited behavior is done outside of school. The law requires the school to intervene when the behavior materially or substantially disrupts the education process, the behavior creates a hostile environment at school for the victim, or the victim believes he/she is in reasonable fear of harm. Although the cyberbullying may have occurred at home on a home computer or cell phone, the school must still intervene and pursue discipline action against the bully in order to protect the victim. Also, if serious enough, the school must contact law enforcement to get them involved.

If your child is a victim of cyberbullying or bullying, please contact me so we can discuss how I can help you.