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Is Cyberbullying a Crime?

Bullying has only gotten worse in the age of the Internet. It can be harder to detect and allows bullies to go after kids who are miles away, outside of the view of school officials and teachers who could normally attempt to step in and end this behavior. That is why the state has updated its laws about bullying to include cyberbullying and provisions for what a school should do to protect students. If you or your child are accused of cyberbullying, a Des Moines cyber crime lawyer from our firm can help.

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What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is simply any kind of bullying that takes place online instead of in person. Kids can bully others over social media apps like Instagram or messaging apps like WhatsApp. Bullying via text messaging can also fall under cyberbullying.

The problem with cyberbullying is that it can be just as scarring as actual bullying, but it can be harder for adults to spot it if they do not have much familiarity with particular apps that kids are using to bully other kids. It is also possible for people to cyberbully others behind an anonymous online persona.

The ability to spread things quickly is another issue with cyberbullying. Someone can start a rumor, craft a cruel meme, or photoshop a picture, and it could be in the hands of dozens of people, if not more, in a short time span. This is why some states have begun to come down harder on those who are perceived as cyberbullies.

Can Someone Be Charged With a Crime for Cyberbullying?

In some cases, they can. If a person cyberbullying someone else is making threats and communicating with them in ways that is meant to cause annoyance or harm, they could be running afoul of IA Code § 708.7. This can lead to them being convicted of harassment. Depending on the severity of the harassment, this can be a simple or serious misdemeanor. For children under the age of 18, this can result in punishments of:

  • Mandated community service
  • Fines of up to $100

Adults charged with cyberbullying could face harsher penalties, including a short jail sentence and more expensive fines. In some cases, a defendant can also be charged with crimes like cyberstalking, and those carry even harsher penalties.

Do I Need an Attorney?

This is still a relatively new area of law that we are dealing with. That means that there can be some mistakes in how it is applied, and an overzealous prosecutor could be pushing for charges in a situation that does not really warrant them.

If you or a loved one have been charged with cyberbullying, contact Herting Law, PLLC. We can tell you more about your legal rights and how you can fight back against these charges.

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