According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), cyberbullying is “bullying that takes place using electronic technology.” Most adults today experienced some form of bullying as a child. Just a decade ago, however, bullying was limited to playground taunts or perhaps name-calling in the lunchroom or a school hallway.
Today, the internet has made it possible for bullies to torment victims long after classes are over for the day. Cyberbullies can also share hurtful comments and images with hundreds or thousands of people with the click of a button. Behind the anonymity of a computer screen, young people say devastating things. HHS reports that 15 percent of students in grades nine through 12 experienced cyberbullying in 2013.
Cyberbullying Is a Crime in Indiana
As technology makes it increasingly easy for bullies to target victims, many states have made cyberbullying a criminal offense. Although Indiana law does not have a specific cyberbullying statute, cyberbullying can be prosecuted under existing laws.
In Indiana, it is a crime to threaten or harass a person using any form of communication, including a computer, telephone, cell phone, or smartphone. Indiana Code Section 35-45-2-2 makes it a misdemeanor to transmit an obscene message or profane words to another person. The statute also makes it illegal to commit harassment using a computer or other electronic device. Indiana law defines an “obscene” message as content that, taken as a whole, lacks serious artistic, literary, political, or scientific value.
When a person uses a computer, smartphone, or other electronic device to stalk another person, he or she can be charged with a felony under Indiana Code Section 35-45-10-5. Cyberstalking occurs when an individual knowingly, continuously, and repeatedly harasses another person online with the intent to make the victim feel threatened, frightened, or intimidated.
If you are the parent of a child or teen, it’s important to talk to your child about cyberbullying. In the worst cases, a bullying victim self-harms or commits suicide due to cyberbullying. As a result, prosecutors have begun to take these cases very seriously.