Psycholegal Aspects of Cyberbullying: The Dark Side of Social Networking

Vol. 8 No. 4

By

Eric Y. Drogin, J.D., Ph.D., is the Chair of the ABA Section of Science & Technology Law and a member of the Program in Psychiatry and the Law, Department of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School. Rachel M. Cannon, Frantz C. Farreau, Amanda G. Hutchison, and Lauren E. Sutphin are J.D. candidates currently attending the William & Mary Law School.

 

"Cyberbullying" occurs when groups or individuals employ "Internet web sites, chat rooms, instant messaging, text and picture messaging on phones, and blogs" to harass or intimidate others online.1 Social networking venues that offer seemingly limitless opportunities for business promotion and positive personal connections can also serve as conduits for the most degrading and destructive forms of ad hominem attack.

According to recent US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice statistics, approximately four percent of 12- to 18-year-old students have reported being the victims of cyberbullying2—a prevalence that current research has suggested may nearly double when the focus shifts to children with developmental disabilities.3 This is not a problem confined to children, although reliable statistical data regarding victimized adults are still largely lacking.4 One recent study of workplace cyberbullying found harassment rates in excess of 10 percent as a result of abuse meted out through the use of such "modern technology."5

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