When cyberbullying becomes criminal
Arkansas is one of just afew states in the nation with a cyberbullying law on the books which means kidsas young as 10 years old can be arrested for repeated, threatening behavioronline.
Sadly, those kinds ofexchanges happen every day across the country. More often than not, parentshave no idea their kids are involved. Whenthey escalate to a certain level, parents do need to know and in a few cases,police and prosecutors need to step in.
Larry Jegley, Pulaski CountyProsecuting Attorney, has seen a number of cases involving juveniles and cyberbullying.
"Certainly you cross aline when fighting words are used, when a threat of physical harm or propertydestruction or anything like that is made, just ugly, hurtful words are onething, but threats and intimidation is really where you cross the line,"said Jegley.
Electronic bullying casesare fairly easy to investigate due to the nature of the crime. Everything in the online world is traceable. Sergeant Cassandra Davis with Little Rock Policepoints out parents need to emphasize that fact with their kids. They need to make sure their kids know theirwords can be used against them in a court of law.
"Once it is inwriting, there's evidence, so we can use it as evidence. It can be printed out and kept as evidence,so we can use it against you," said Sergeant Davis.
The Little Rock Police Departmentclassifies cyberbullying cases as harassing communications, a charge which carriesa fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail. Sergeant Davis said extreme casescould even include felony charges.
The more informed yourkids are, the safer they'll be. Be surethey realize cyberbullying can take many forms including:
Impersonation - whensomeone's online account is hacked and embarrassing, hurtful, or threateningmessages are sent
Flaming - online bashingand fighting
Outing - when someone istricked into revealing secrets or embarrassing information.
No matter the form, Jegleysaid parent's need to monitor their kids' online activities and realize thatwhen they get out of hand, there can be serious repercussions.
"That's when it getsto the point that the law needs to step in and say stop it. Decent people don'tlive like this and just be a nice little boy or girl," said Jegley.
If your child is the victim of repeated,threatening behavior online, you should contact your local police department orprosecuting attorney's office.