Can we deter cyberbullying and cyber-harassment with new laws?

Cyberbullying Mother and Daughter

Why do we need laws pertaining to cyberbullying and harassment of youth and adults?

As people hear my story and my quest for legislation and programs for cyberbullying and harassment prevention for youth and adults, some question whether or not we need laws to prohibit this behavioral challenge.

With a few years to think about it while being harassed, defamed, and threatened online, I believe we need better laws in the U.S. to protect people against those who are taking advantage of the absence of them.

I’ve also had time to reflect on how laws have positively impacted other areas of our lives. Where would we be without laws against theft, identity theft, assault, murder, child pornography, rape, etc.?

It wasn’t too long ago that parents were not held accountable for events resulting from liquor served to minors in their homes, but society realized we needed laws to prevent underage drinking that increased teen drunk driving and other challenges.

We cannot rely on everyone to follow what we consider societal norms, because we know people often do not agree on them. We need official guidelines to clarify boundaries and ramifications.

When I hear people say they do not want to create laws about cyberbullying, because they do not want to criminalize it, I wonder how doing nothing is helpful. It’s not. Cyberbullying’s effects are devastating our youth.

Varying lengths of community-service and programs for sensitivity, anger management, impulse control, etc. could be part of the ramifications for repeat or extreme juvenile offenders.

Creating laws to define cyberbullying and harassment for youth and adults, as well as ramifications, would help deter it and, at the same time, would demonstrate the seriousness in which it is regarded.

There are many other things we need to do to decrease cyberbullying and harassment. We need to foster empathy and respect in our schools and everywhere youth are active. We need to promote kindness and compassion for all people. We need teach positive communications skills, especially for when people disagree. We need to lead by example. We need to help more people be upstanders, and we need to encourage self-confidence and standing up for oneself.

We also need social media companies to change the way they respond to reports of abusive content and accounts. This is long overdue and could help diminish the number of repeat offenders. Till this happens, we need to face the fact that at the moment it’s easy to get away with harming someone online.

More than 20 young people took their lives due to cyberbullying in 2017, and many more attempted suicide. Cyberbullying and harassment can be devastating. It negatively impacts the victims, witnesses, and those carrying out the harassment.

The time for change is now. The time for laws to protect us from online abuse is now.