How can the bullies be caught? What can happen to them?How can the perpetrators be caught and dealt with, and what exactly can happen to them if they are caught? Schools take bullying seriously. The first place you should go in search of justice is your school as cyber bullying is often an extension or escalation of bullying that is already happening at school. The police are unlikely to become involved if the bullying is limited to a few isolated incidents or a couple of mean emails or text messages. However, if you get even one communication that includes a threat of bodily harm or a death threat the police should be alerted. Be aware that urging suicide is considered a death threat and the police will treat it accordingly. Obviously, repeated or excessive harassment via email, forums or chat is harassment and should involve the police. As discussed earlier, posting a false profile with a target’s real email address is fraud, some jurisdictions even consider it identity theft, and a police report should be filed. As for harassing text messages, save them and contact the sender’s cellular service provider. Text messages cannot be sent anonymously, the phone number always shows up even if you don’t know whom it belongs to. Once you have the phone number you can easily find out who the cellular service provider is and ask that the number be suspended or that at least the text messaging function be disabled on the account. You may have to go to the police with a harassment complaint before the cellular service provider will respond but you will find that no company wants to be labeled as cyber bully friendly.
What can happen to cyber bullies depends on the extent of the harassment, the evidence at hand and the laws in your area. Taunting and teasing is not always criminal but it is always against school policy. If a school email account or school bulletin board is used to bully then the school is your first line of defense. They will be able to trace who the bully or bullies are and take appropriate punitive action. The school may even decide to go to the police if the harassment is excessive or if threats of harm are made. At the school’s discretion they may give detention, suspend the students, suspend or rescind the student’s computer privileges, expel the student or students, go to the police, or any combination of these. If the acts are clearly criminal you should save the evidence to the best of your ability, alert your parents and go to the police. The harassment is definitely criminal and should be brought to the attention of the police if it involves any of the following:
- Repeated or excessive harassment with or without threats of harm.
- Encouraging or suggesting that a person kill themselves. Threatening to harm to a person, a person’s property, a person’s pet or anybody else.
- Threatening to kill a person, a person’s pet or anybody else.
- Threatening to commit a crime.
- Fraudulently posting private information in a public forum.
- Posting private information such as names, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in a public forum, chat room or on a web site when a reasonable person would know that doing so will put the target at risk or open them up to new harassment.