Bullying has been a big problem for a long time. Victims of bullying may face consequences such as mental health issues and psychical harm. Although incidents may be reported, very few cases of bullying result in legal action or consequences.
In addition, there is little legal education to prevent cyberbullying. El Asam and Samara (2016) article discusses bullying laws and the legal challenges to establish legislation on bullying in the UK. Set bullying laws can help reduce bullying. However, establishing legislation or a modification to existing laws are challenging. Challenges may include an unclear definition of bullying and cyberbullying, difficulty determining a person’s intention to harm, providing evidence, a lack of surveillance, a lack of awareness, issues surrounding jurisdiction, and the age of criminal responsibility (El Asam & Samara, 2016).El Asam and Samara (2016) state although bullying has been an accepted and normalized experience, it has never been a major issue until the last 20 years. In the UK there are no laws that criminalize bullying (El Asam & Samara, 2016).
A victim may be physically bullied or cyberbullied with no hope of legal action that can be taken against the bully. Although there are no laws that criminalize bullies, there are prosecutions that can be made. The Crown Prosecution Service is an organization that prosecutes criminal cases that have been investigated by the police and other investigative organization. However, many cases may not be prosecuted if they do not meet the necessary two stages required for a prosecution.
The two stages require there be sufficient evidence and the consideration of public interest for prosecution (El Asam & Samara, 2016). The Education and Inspection Act of 2006 states that schools are responsible for providing a safe and healthy environment to all students (El Asam & Samara, 2016). Under this act, teachers have the power to confiscate student’s devices. Anything that could be used as cyberbullying may be confiscated. Teachers also have the right to search through phones if the student is suspected to be involved in cyberbullying. The act allows students to be punished if cyberbullying takes place, but it is possible that they may not be prosecuted.
There are many challenges in obtaining legal prosecution. One challenge is surveillance of cyberbullying. Although technology has advanced, it may be difficult to apply effective surveillance techniques to catch cyberbullying and identify bullies.
Even with reports of cyberbullying, it is difficult to establish concrete evidence. Legal prosecution requires evidence to charge someone with an offense. Digital evidence may not be enough in addition content can be manipulated or destroyed. Online bullies like to remain anonymous, so confirming an identity is another challenge. Additionally, online social networks are easily accessed using fake names and email addresses.
Therefore a child could be bullied by others without actually knowing their true identity. The Communications Act of 2003 describes violations as when a person sends an offensive message that is aimed to be offensive, causes annoyance, inconvenience, or anxiety (El Asam & Samara, 2016). Being found guilty could lead to punishment by imprisonment of up to 6 months, a fine of up to 5,000 euros (6,721 US dollars), or both (El Asam & Samara, 2016).
The problem with this act is establishing a person’s intention to harm or cause anxiety. The authors state that the intention to harm is one of the main criteria in criminal laws. However, with a cyberbullying law, this is not clearly identified.
Reading bullying comments, the intention to harm the victim may not be seen. Many cyberbullies indirectly intend to harm victims with hate comments which does not hold much evidence in court.It can be argued that a person may be using their freedom of speech which may be seen as bullying. In which case the authors mentioned that cyberbullying laws should be tailored in a way that allows freedom of speech. It may be difficult to draw a line between a person expressing their feeling and opinion and person who is cyberbullying. This is an example of a need to have a clear definition of bullying and awareness of the issue. A significant challenge of legal action on cyberbullying is the age of criminal responsibility (El Asam & Samara, 2016).
Anyone can be a cyberbully, even a child of 10 years. The authors mention that if there were cyberbullying laws in place and young children who broke these laws could be criminalized. This would be a major issue charging children as young as 10 years old which can severely impact their future. Young children and adolescents should not have the same punishment for their crime. Just as the authors described, more attention needs to be made on the victims suffering from cyberbullying in the UK.
Strict laws for cyberbullying and awareness need to be set. Although cyberbullying has been an issue for countless years, there seems to be no law preventing it. There are many victims that deserve justice, however, do not receive it. Although it sounds good to have laws in place against cyberbullying. In the UK bullying and cyberbullying are not directly defined or mentioned in the laws.
In order for legislation to pass there needs to be a consistent and clear definition. Unfortunately, there is a lack of awareness of cyberbullying laws which allows bullies to say that they are not aware of existing laws and the consequences of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can have devastating consequences on a child’s mental and physical health. More awareness needs to be made of cyberbullying laws and the consequences of violating this law. As there has been an increase in cyberbullying. The UK needs to have clear cyberbullying laws in place and make more awareness be made in schools and other institutions.
Legal education is needed not only in the UK, but in the United States and other countries.