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When can cyberbullying put your child in legal jeopardy?

When most of us were kids, bullies taunted you on the playground, on the school bus, walking home from school or maybe in your own front yard. Now, a lot of bullying is being done via social media.

It's easier to say cruel, hurtful things and even threaten people online than it is to do it face-to-face. Further, parents of both the bullies and their targets may not even be aware of what is going on.

Sometimes, kids go too far. Pre-teens and teenagers are the most common targets of cyberbullying. Because their self-esteem is often fragile, words, particularly when they are seen by their peers, can have serious consequences, including suicide.

Law enforcement is working to prevent serious cases of cyberbullying. Certain things communicated online about someone may be illegal. If a person is threatened or placed in danger by something that a person has posted on social media or through some other type of online communication, including texts and emails, the person who sent those communications may be breaking the law.

Kids are increasingly being encouraged to report instances of cyberbullying to their parents. Further, parents are encouraged to monitor their children's online profiles to look at what they are posting as well as what others are posting about them. They are advised to print out and keep any communications and posts as evidence.

If your child is in legal trouble for cyberbullying, it's essential that you take the charges seriously and seek legal guidance. You may consider it just "kid stuff," but law enforcement and prosecutors see it differently. An experienced criminal defense attorney can work to help mitigate the damage to your child's future.

Source: Cyberangels.org, "What is Cyberbullying?," accessed Sep. 16, 2015

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