How Do I Report People Who Cyber-Bully to the Police?
By Melly Parker
Cruel taunts, threatening messages and hateful words sent via the Internet are no less hurtful than those spoken in real life or sent in the mail. Cyberbullying can happen anywhere on the Internet -- on social networking sites, via email or over instant messenger. Since harassment is illegal everywhere and cyberbullying itself is illegal in many states, report the behavior to the police. Report actions like threats, sexual harassment and hate speech, especially, right away and bring proof of the cyberbullying with you when you do. The more information you have for the police officers, the better they'll be able to investigate your case.
While many states have laws against bullying, not all states have specific laws against cyberbullying. If your state is one of the ones that doesn't, the crime must still be reported to the police. The bullying happening online doesn't make it any less significant than if it happened in another way. If you're receiving threats, being stalked, experiencing hate crimes or being sexually harassed, report the behavior to the police immediately. Photos or videos taken of you at a time when you have the right to privacy or any type of child pornography must also be reported to police right away.
States that specifically prohibit cyberbullying include: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and Washington. Many states that don't mention cyberbullying in the laws do specify that electronic harassment is illegal. Some of the localities that don't prohibit cyberbullying have proposed updates to laws that may add it and most states have a school policy requirement regarding cyberbullying. Actions prohibited by cyberbullying laws include hate speech, sexual harassment, posting of photos or videos taken at a place where you had a reasonable expectation of privacy, threats or online stalking. Information about which laws specifically prohibit different actions in each state can be found on the Cyberbullying Research Center's State Cyberbullying Laws page (see Resources).
Documenting evidence that cyberbullying occurs is very important. Use the Snipping Tool in Windows to take screenshots that include the date and time so you have proof when you report the bullying to the police. Save emails, text messages, social networking posts and instant messages as dated picture files. When you're ready to report the behavior to the police, print your screenshots and save the files to an empty portable USB drive. Bring both the screenshots and the portable drive to the police station in your area.
When you speak with the police, explain what has been occurring and what prompted you to make the report. The officer you speak with will ask you questions about the cyberbullying. Answer fully and honestly -- the police need as many facts as possible to look into the crime. If you know the name of the person committing the cyberbullying, share that information with the police as well. They will take your personal information to contact you for follow up questions.
The police aren't the only group who can help when you're being harassed online. If you're in school or the victim is your child, report the bullying to the school. Threatening behavior makes the learning process difficult, because the environment feels unsafe; most schools have guidelines in place to deal with the problem. Also report the behavior of the bully to the Website where it's taking place. Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter, for example, all have pages where you can report bullying.
Melly Parker has been writing since 2007, focusing on health, business, technology and home improvement. She has also worked as a teacher and a bioassay laboratory technician. Parker now serves as a marketing specialist at one of the largest mobile app developers in the world. She holds a Master of Science in English.