Bullies in a Wired World: The Impact of Cyberspace Victimization on Adolescent Mental Health and the Need for Cyberbullying Legislation in Ohio

By Albin, Kelly A. | Journal of Law and Health, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Bullies in a Wired World: The Impact of Cyberspace Victimization on Adolescent Mental Health and the Need for Cyberbullying Legislation in Ohio


Albin, Kelly A., Journal of Law and Health


I. INTRODUCTION
II. THENEED FOR CYBERBULLYING LEGISLATION
   A. The Negative Effects of Cyberbullying
      1. The Differences Between Cyberbullying and
         Traditional Bullying
      2. The Mental and the Psychological Health
         Effects of Cyberbullying
   B. The Inadequacy of Existing Legal Remedies for
      Ohio Victims
      1. Ohio Civil Remedies Related to Cyberbullying
      2. Ohio Criminal Laws Related to Cyberbullying
III. CYBERBULLYING LEGISLATION IN OTHER STATES
IV. PROPOSED FEDERAL CYBERBULLYING LEGISLATION
V. PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE RESPONSES TO
   CYBERBULLYING FOR OHIO
   A. Amendments to Ohio's Current Bullying Statutes
   B. Model Cyberbullying Criminal Statute or
      Amendments to the Current Telecommunications
      Harassment Statute
      1. Model Cyberbullying Statute
         i. Definitional Provision
         ii. Direct and Indirect Liability
         iii. Degree of Punishment and Expungement
      2. Amendments to the Telecommunications
         Harassment Statute
VI. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Thirteen-year-old Hope Witsell used her favorite scarves to hang herself from a canopy bed. (1) Thirteen-year-old Megan Meier used a belt to hang herself in a closet. (2) Thirteen-year-old Alex shot himself with his grandfather's antique shotgun. (3) Eighteen-year-old Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge. (4) These teens are among the many victims of cyberbullying and represent bullying's dangerous progression (5) in the digital age. This Note examines cyberbullying's impact on adolescents' mental health and psychological and emotional development and explores the need for Ohio-specific cyberbullying legislation.

Traditionally, bullies' taunts and torments were confined to the schoolyard and halls. Most bullying resembled either a survival of the fittest (6) scenario or psychological warfare; (7) stealing other kids' lunch money and threatening to "punch their lights out," or pouncing on insecurities and spreading viciously false rumors. No matter the type of bully, once the school day ended, bullied victims safely retreated to a peaceful night at home, away from the emotional, physical, and mental abuse. Today, the retreat to home is no longer a retreat to safety. (8) In a wired world, the schoolyard is now the Internet, allowing students to target and inescapably victimize other students through cyberbullying in the playgrounds of cyberspace.

Cyberbullying is the "willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices." (9) Although this is an imperfect definition, it includes four main components that are important in defining cyberbullying: (1) deliberate behavior, not merely accidental; (2) repeated behavior, more than a one-time incident; (3) harm occurred--from the victim's perspective; and (4) it is executed through a technological medium. (10) This phenomenon has recently received worldwide attention because of its negative effect on adolescent mental health (11) and the many cases of cyberbullying-induced teen suicide. (12) In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") (13) identified a significant upward trend in total suicide rates for three of six sex-age groups observed in the study: females aged 10-14 years and 15-19 years and males aged 15-19 years. (14) Females aged 10-14 years represented the greatest percentage increase in suicide rates from 2003 to 2004 (75.9%), followed by females aged 15-19 years (32.3%) and males aged 15-19 years (9.0%). (15) Since then, suicide rates among young adults continue to cause national concern, with cyberbullying as a driving force. (16) The nationwide rise in teen suicide and cyberbullying victimization compelled thirty-four states to pass specific cyberbullying laws or to amend state bullying statutes to include cyberbullying or electronic harassment scenarios. (17)

Ohio is not exempt from the nationwide epidemic of cyberbullying-induced teen suicide. …

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