It’s not always necessary to reach out to law enforcement to discuss negative online experiences.
For youth, one-time incidents in which the content has been removed often are not reported to the police. Like bullying, cyberbullying implies repetition, so one-off experiences without subsequent challenges may be considered resolved. That said, the decision will often involve the severity of the target’s negative online experience. In addition, when the situation involves students from the same school or school district, and parents or guardians of the target are satisfied with its handling, it is common that incidents are not reported to law enforcement.
For adult online harassment and youth cyberbullying, if you’ve decided to report incidents to law enforcement:
- Be prepared.
- Bring organized printouts to the police station.
- Be able to explain the situation fully, but also succinctly.
- It’s ok for you not to know the fine details of the law.
- Ask questions about laws and your child’s and/or your rights.
- Take notes.
- Record report numbers and officer names.
- Write down follow-up instructions.
- Get copies of reports or report receipts.
- If possible, have someone with you. You may be going through something very difficult and possibly embarrassing. Having support is helpful.
If you choose to report negative online experiences to law enforcement, because you believe a law has been broken, your first step is to request to file a report at your local police station or precinct. It’s advisable to call before visiting to find out about requirements, restrictions, process, hours, appointments, and any special COVID-19 policies.
One of the most difficult challenges targets of cyberbullying and online harassment experience — often while they are still facing what they consider abuse — is learning about law enforcement’s limitations and accepting that law enforcement can only enforce the law. If adequate laws are not in place to address or investigate a complaint, law enforcement’s actions will be limited.
The lack of laws directly addressing youth cyberbullying in New York State motivated Lisa-Michelle Kucharz to reach out to legislators and advocate for change. In May 2021, legislation to create a task force to explore cyberbullying and measures to address it was passed in the New York State Senate and Assembly. Lisa-Michelle and her advocacy efforts have been credited with inspiring the bill.