As a parent, you know how tough it can be to raise good kids. Unlike your parents, though, you have to parent in an increasingly technological world. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 95% of American teenagers have direct access to a smartphone. Of these, 45% admit to staying online virtually all the time.
Cyberbullying is a comparatively new way to break the law. Still, because the behavior may have some serious criminal consequences for the young one in your family, you should understand what it entails. In Florida, a couple of different statutes may come into play.
Unlike many other states, Florida law specifically prohibits cyberbullying. If someone bullies through the use of technology or an electronic communication, he or she may violate the law. You must realize that this provision of law is broad. That is, it covers messages through text, email, messaging apps, blogs, websites and other electronic communications. The types of prohibited conduct are also broad. Any activity that systemically or chronically inflicts emotional distress on another person is likely illegal.
Even if your teenager’s actions do not constitute cyberbullying, he or she may violate Florida’s prohibition against harassment. Harassment occurs when someone directs his or her actions toward someone else to cause emotional distress for no legitimate reason.
Finally, Florida law prevents any individual from making threats against another person. The threat must be credible, though. Still, if your teenager threatens to harm to someone else using verbal, written or electronic communication, he or she may violate the law.
In Florida, cyberbullying may be either a misdemeanor or a felony. While a felony conviction may result in up to five years behind bars, even a misdemeanor may leave your teenager with a criminal history that follows him or her for life. By understanding cyberbullying and its consequences, you can likely help the young one in your family to stay out of trouble.