News was out last evening that the Senate Judiciary Committee killed a proposed Colorado cyberbullying law before it had a chance to get to the Senate for a vote. The Colorado House had already passed the bill with overwhelming support.
The failure of the Bill highlights the difficulties that states are having in developing tools to deal with cyberbullying. In this case, the American Civil Liberties Union and Anti Defamation League opposed the Bill on the grounds that it was unconstitutional in that it might impede free speech.
While all states have a law that covers many or most of forms of harassment, as recently as a couple of months ago, only 18 states had a law covering cyberbullying. There is no Federal law covering cyberbullying at this time, although there may be one at some point. Some states do appear to be making progress toward effective cyberbullying legislation, but a countywide solution is not in sight.
As a parent, you probably think that protecting a clearly harassing incident of cyberbullying as free speech is ridiculous, and we agree. State lawmakers might agree as well, but until laws have caught up with current reality, parents and schools are left to deal with the aftermath, or develop effective prevention strategies.
For the time being, and perhaps forever, the first and best line of defense against cyberbullying is sound parenting. We encourage parents to:
- Have a dialog with your kids establishing what cyberbullying is and isn’t
- Impress upon them the fact that what happens online can have an impact as profound as events that happen face to face
- Encourage your kids to support and defend cyberbullying victims, and in no case to join in when cyberbullying takes place
- Ensure that kids know where to turn when cyberbullying is taking place, whether your child is a victim or a bystander
In the battle against cyberbullying, the most effective step that a parent can take is to make sure that your child is not a cyberbully. If everyone does that, the problem will be largely solved.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.