Five Law Enforcement Tips to Prepare and Respond to Cyberbullying

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and with the rapid growth of technology in recent years, there has been an influx in a new type of youth victimization known as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying through technology, such as computers and cell phones.

We are in an era where 95% of teens communicate through social media and nearly 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly. Of those, 45% have experienced cyberbullying from these forms of communication.[1] To ensure an effective response to cyberbullying incidents, it’s important that law enforcement and allied stakeholders have a full understanding of the unique issues associated with these types of incidents.

When addressing cyberbullying in your jurisdiction, consider these five tips:

  1. Know the laws pertaining to cyberbullying in your state, which may fall under harassment, stalking, or other statutes, as well as federal civil rights laws on discriminatory harassment. Visit IACP’s cyberbullying resource page for information on state legislation.
  1. Consider how officers will respond to the victim and alleged offender, manage the digital evidence, conduct the investigation, and refer victims and alleged offenders to counseling.
  1. Discuss law enforcement and school procedures with local school districts and determine in advance how cyberbullying complaints should be addressed when they occur at school (e.g., if and when police should be called and how evidence is collected).
  1. Recommend to appropriate partners (e.g. school, prosecutor’s office and courts) that the offender attend educational workshops, conduct community service, or complete diversion programs.
  1. Consult counseling professionals to see if assessment and treatment are recommended for any children involved.

These tips and more can be found in Preparing and Responding to Cyberbullying: Tips for Law Enforcement, a tip card recently released via a collaboration between the IACP, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Justice Programs, U.S Department of Justice.

This resource presents over 20 recommendations from subject matter experts working in law enforcement, youth trauma, mental health, computer crimes, victim services, and education.

Download a free copy of the Tip Card in English or Spanish now or request hard copies by contacting us at 703-647-6830 or iacpyouth@theiacp.org.

[1] NoBullying.com. “Cyber Bullying Facts.” 2014. http://nobullying.com/facts-about-cyber-bullying/ (accessed September 11, 2014).

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