Cyberbullying: What Law Enforcement Needs to Know

With the increase in cell phone and social media users in the last decade, especially young users, the opportunity for cyberbullying has also increased. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 9% of children reported being cyberbullied during the 2010-2011 school year, while the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that 15% of high school students were bullied.

Cyberbullying can be elusive to discover as it can take place in privacy, as in the form of harassing or threatening emails or texts from an anonymous user, or in a very public forum, such as the posting of embarrassing information or photographs on social media sites. Whatever the form, cyberbullying is hurtful and destructive and is linked to lower self-esteem and poor school performance (Aluede et al, 2008).

According to ChildNet International, the key steps in a Cyberbullying investigation are:

Preserving the Evidence

  • Note the specific information about each incident, including:
    • Data and time the information was sent
    • Sender’s ID
    • Web address of the bullying content
  • Where possible, preserve original content on the victim’s device, or obtain archived information from the service provider or social media site.
  • For information posted on social media and in chat rooms, create screen captures of the material.

Identifying the Bully

While often cyberbullies post information anonymously, there are methods to narrow down the potential subject pool. For example, knowing that the information was sent from a school computer can be used to compare against computer user logs. Noting if other users also commented on publicly posted sites containing the offending information can lead to potential witnesses who may know the offending individual.

When a bully blocks his or her number or posts anonymously, service providers may be able to provide information on who posted or sent the information. Most companies have a plan in place for responding to police investigations.

For more information, please refer to Childnet International’s Cyberbullying: Safe to Learn: Embedding Anti-Bullying Work in Schools.

 

References

Aluede, O., Adeleke, F., Omoike, D., Afen-Akpaida, J. (2008). A review of the extent, nature, characteristics and effects of bullying behaviour in schools. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 35 (2), 151-158.

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