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What punishment fits the crime of teen cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying has become more and more common in recent years -- how should it be handled?
Cyberbullying has become more and more common in recent years -- how should it be handled?
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Anti-bullying advocates across the country are calling for stricter laws to prosecute juveniles who harass others online. A California teenager killed herself just a week after she was sexually assaulted at a party and photos of the attack were circulated online. A Canadian teen, Rehtaeh Parsons also took her own life after allegedly being raped and cyber-bullied.

In Maryland, 15-year-old Grace McComus committed suicide after months of being bullied online. Her parents said they tried to stop the harassing messages but were told there was nothing they could do. These cases echo the recent Steubenville rape case, where two Ohio teen boys were convicted of rape after posting photos of the assault online and shared them on social media. In response, Maryland has passed a bill tightening laws against online harassment but it's expected to face constitutional challenges. The parents of Audrie Pott want to force California to try juveniles accused of online harassment as adults.

How can we protect young people from cyber bullying while respecting the first amendment right to free speech? Should teens accused of cyber bullying be tried as adults? How do we talk to our children about events like these?


Elizabeth Englander, Professor of psychology at Bridgewater State University and the director of the Massachusetts aggression reduction center

Justin Patchin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center