Safer Cyberspace Through Legal Intervention: A Comparative Review of Cyberbullying Legislation

Date01 December 2016
Published date01 December 2016
Safer Cyberspace Through Legal Intervention:
A Comparative Review of Cyberbullying Legislation
Y. Tony Yang and Erin Grinshteyn
Cyberbullying is a problem that has increased signif‌icantly in incidence and severity over the recent
past. The harmful consequences of cyberbullying have been well documented, including associations
with severe psychological suffering, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. Cyberbullying is
characterized by unique circumstances and challenges for those interested in tackling this burden
using legal means. This critical review uses qualitative legal analysis. LexisNexis and PubMed
searches were conducted. It examines laws and policies dealing with cyberbullying in both the
United States and other countries starting with def‌ining cyberbullying and then comparing the
measures in which the issues surrounding cyberbullying have been addressed using various legal
strategies. Finally, after analyzing existing legislative methods around the world, this article
concludes with legal and policy recommendations based on these comparisons.
KEY WORDS: cyberbullying, violence, adolescents, comparative laws
The emergence of the Internet has led to an extraordinarily enhanced ability
to communicate. Social media and other online services have given persons of all
ages the ability to disseminate thoughts and communications broadly and
quickly, connecting the world in an unprecedented manner. This technological
advancement is not without its drawbacks, however. One negative trend that has
emerged alongside the ubiquity of the Internet is an increase in cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over electronic means of communi-
cation (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010). This includes communications over an
increasing number of devices including cell phones, tablets, and computers.
Within these devices, applications and websites that support social media,
whether through posting text, pictures, or videos, have also become tools of
cyberbullies. In light of the increasing number of hours teens spend on the
computer plugged into social media and the increasing access the proliferation of
smart devices has created, this trend deserves heightened attention as more and
more households in the United States access the Internet every year (File, 2013).
World Medical & Health Policy, Vol. 8, No. 4, 2016
1948-4682 #2016 Policy Studies Organization
Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ.
As greater numbers of people access the Internet and text on smartphones and
wireless devices (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012), the danger for cyberbullying
expands. These increased online avenues have already been brought to light in
many high prof‌ile incidents in the media in recent years (, 2016);
yet, the dangers may go well beyond what has been reported. A 2014 study
indicated that the prevalence of bullying was 55 percent with 18 percent of high-
school respondents reporting cyberbullying (Gan et al., 2014). As cyberbullying is
becoming more widespread, most victims do not share their cyberbullying
experience, and if they did, only half believe they are taken seriously (Gan et al.,
2014). Cyberbullying deserves attention due to its potentially devastating effects
on victims (Gan et al., 2014). In light of recent data and the propensity for
adolescent teens between the ages of 12–18 to be involved, this article seeks to
shed some light on relevant policies addressing cyberbullying among this age
group, with the hope that the discussion can assist legislative bodies pursuing
action and crafting measures to ensure the safety of these children.
To this end, this article will begin by laying out some of the background
considerations and obstacles for legislatures seeking to def‌ine cyberbullying. It
will then discuss the empirical and anecdotal data to determine the boundaries of
the current problem of cyberbullying to which legislatures are responding. Next,
it will review the laws currently in place, both in the United States and abroad, to
see the various approaches possible to control cyberbullying. Finally, it will
identify key considerations in light of this review and seek to identify a model
policy and key policy considerations for the United States. This article uses
qualitative legal analysis; LexisNexis and PubMed searches were conducted to
review and compare cyberbullying legislation and regulation both within the
United States and abroad. In order to inform policy, it also draws recommenda-
tions regarding cyberbullying laws, setting forth principles derived from its
broader legislative comparisons upon which policymakers may base future anti-
cyberbullying efforts.
Addressing the Root of the Problem
Cyberbullying demands increased attention not only for the physical danger
it poses to teens, but also the signif‌icant psychological issues and behavioral
issues associated with it (Schneider, O’Donnell, Stueve, & Coulter, 2012).
Cyberbullying has drawn national attention in light of prominent incidents of
related teen suicide (Gini & Espelage, 2014). While these instances show the
extremes of the dangers cyberbullying poses for its victims, the emotional and
behavioral disorders associated with it may be equally damaging for both
members of the cyberbullying dynamic (Rose, Simpson, & Moss, 2015). Cyberbul-
lying not only may cause psychological harm to its victims, it also may serve as a
symptom of the same behavioral and emotional disorders experienced by
cyberbullies themselves (Schneider et al., 2012). Both victims and bullies
experience a lack of safety at school; some of them come from broken homes, and
have diff‌iculty getting along with others (Schneider et al., 2012). Therefore,
Yang/Grinshteyn: Safer Cyberspace Through Laws 459

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