Montana Department of Justice
Home / Safe in Your Space / For Teens & Tweens: Cyberbullying

What is it?

Cyberbullying is “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.”

  • willful: the actions are deliberate, not accidental
  • repeated: there is a pattern of behavior, not just one isolated incident
  • harm: the target feels hurt or humiliated
  • computer, cell phones and other electronic devices: this is what makes it cyberbullying and not bullying††

Students use technology to bully through personal web pages; social networking sites such as MySpace, FaceBook or Flickr; YouTube; cell phone, text, picture and video messages; email and IM’ing; and blogs and forums. Some examples of cyberbullying include:

  • “Hot or Not” websites where students rate each other
  • setting up insulting or hateful websites specifically to hurt, tease, embarrass or humiliate someone
  • hateful or racist email, IM or text messaging
  • threatening email, IM or text messaging
  • uploading embarrassing or harmful videos or pictures to YouTube, social networking or other photo-or video-sharing sites without the knowledge of the person or people in the video or picture
  • creating a fake person to carry out embarrassing or hurtful communications or acts on the Internet
  • sending repeated messages to a cell phone
  • “borrowing” someone’s screen name and pretending to be them while posting a message
  • forwarding private messages, pictures or video to others

How Common is it?

A 2008 study (PDF) found that 72% of students reported being bullied online in the past year. Most knew the perpetrator.

  • Most often, cyberbullying was done through IM.
  • Students who frequently used webcams were the most likely to be repeatedly bullied.
  • Insults were the No. 1 reported problem.
  • Password theft was the No. 2 reported problem. This involves someone stealing a password, logging onto an account, and sending or uploading content that makes the account owner look bad(Juvonen and Gross, Extending the school grounds?—Bullying experiences in cyberspace, 2008)

Types of Cyberbullying

Cyber Stalking: Repeatedly sending messages that are threatening or intimidating. Engaging in other online activities that make the victim afraid for his or her safety. Cyber Threats: The use of a computer, cell phone or other electronic device to threaten a person’s physical safety and well-being (Hinduja & Patchin 2009). Defamation: “Dissing” someone online. Sending or posting cruel gossip or rumors about a person to damage his or her reputation or friendships. Exclusion: Intentionally excluding someone from an online group, like a buddy list. Flaming or Trolling: Online fighting using electronic messages with angry and crude language. Happy Slapping: A phenomenon that links traditional bullying with cyberbullying where an unsuspected person is recorded being harassed or bullied in a way that usually includes some type of physical abuse.  The digital photo or video is uploaded to the web (Hinduja & Patchin 2009). Harassment: Repeatedly sending offensive, rude and insulting messages. Impersonation: Pretending to be someone else and sending or posting material online that makes the victim look bad, gets the victim in trouble or danger, or damages the victim’s reputation or friendships. Outing and Trickery: Sharing someone’s secret or embarrassing information online. Tricking someone into revealing secrets or embarrassing information that is then shared online. Photoshopping: The modification or alteration of a photo or image.  This becomes cyberbullying if the image is altered in a humiliating or obscene way and uploaded to the Web (Hinduja & Patchin 2009).

What you may think is funny or a simple prank may not be funny to the victim. The victim may respond very differently than you expect. If you are not sure how the victim of your prank or joke may respond, or if you wouldn’t do it to that person’s face, then don’t do it online. What if you send an embarrassing picture of your girlfriend or boyfriend to a friend, thinking it won’t go further than that? The fact is, you have no idea what a friend might do with something you send. Once you have sent it, you have lost control of where it might end up and any harm it might cause. You can get into serious trouble for cyberbullying. Under Montana and federal laws, a cyberbully might be charged with:

A Criminal Offense: depending on the specific circumstances of a case, cyberbullying in Montana could lead to a number of criminal charges, including:

  • Violating privacy in communications: 45-8-213 of the Montana Code Annotated (MCA)
  • Stalking: 45-5-220 MCA
  • Malicious intimidation or harassment relating to civil or human rights: 45-5-221 MCA
  • Surreptitious visual observation or recordation: 45-5-223 MCA
  • Obscenity – 45-8-201 MCA
  • Public display or dissemination of obscene material to minors: 45-8-206 MCA
  • Sexual abuse of children: 45-5-625 MCA

Defamatory Libel: written communication that can severely harm an individual’s reputation. Defamation/Slander: communicating a false statement that harms another person’s reputation. Both libel and slander could result in the victim filing a lawsuit against you. So think, before you post.

What to Do

To Prevent Cyberbullying
  • Don’t give out private information (passwords, pins, name, address, phone number, school name, or family and friends’ names).
  • Don’t share your password, even with your friends.
  • Don’t exchange pictures, videos or give out email addresses to people you meet online (ask for permission from an adult first).
  • Don’t share buddy lists.
  • Don’t send a message when you are angry.
  • Don’t use profanity or insulting or rude language.
  • Delete messages from people you don’t know, especially if they seem angry or mean.
  • Get out of the site or chat if something doesn’t seem right.
  • Realize that online conversations are not private.
  • Be aware that whatever happens online can be reproduced and spread very easily, by anyone.
  • Do not say anything online that you would not say face-to-face to the person on the other end.
If You are Cyberbullied
  • Speak with a trusted adult.
  • Speak with your teacher or principal if it is school related.
  • Remember that cyberbullying is not about you, it is about bullies who:
    • want to feel powerful
    • are looking for attention
    • probably are victims of bullying themselves
  • Don’t open or read messages by cyberbullies.
  • Don’t react to the bully (ignore them).
  • Walk away from the computer.
If Ignoring the Bully Doesn’t Work?
  • Again, speak with a trusted adult or your teacher or principal if it is school related.
  • Don’t meet with the bully.
  • Block the bully.
  • Don’t erase messages or images from the bully. Instead, save them to a folder as evidence in case the bullying escalates and law enforcement gets involved.
  • Contact the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to report the harassment.
  • Inform the police if you are threatened with harm.

Contact the CyberTipline if:

  • You receive unsolicited obscene material (pornography).
  • You are directed to a misleading domain name (website).
  • You are tricked into viewing harmful material.

Get Involved

  • Develop a Youth Internet Safety Team at your school.
  • Become an iMentor and teach your peers or younger students about Internet safety (see www.isafe.org to get involved in an iMentor program).
  • Teach your parents about what you do while online.
  • Teach younger siblings about cyberspace.
  • Reach an agreement with your parents about Internet rules.
  • Consider a Family Internet Use Contract (PDF).

Speak Up!

Provide support – be a friend. For example, make positive comments on a friend’s Facebook page, especially if others have made negative comments.  And let others know that it is not cool to be cruel, to harass someone or to spread rumors about others.  Check out the That’s Not Cool website for ideas. Educate your peers and community members about cyberbullying.  Here are some ideas from i-SAFE’s Student Tool Kit (PDF)

  • Organize a Cyber Safety Week at your school.
  • Create PSAs (Public Service Announcements), television or radio advertisements intended to educate or alert the public on important social issues.
  • Set up an information table at lunch, during study hall, at a school sports event, after school, or at the mall or local grocery store to let students, teachers, parents and community members know about the dangers of cyberbullying.
  • Organize a community or school play.  This is an ideal activity for school assemblies or a presentation for the class next door or for younger students.
  • Organize a Speak Out! (a panel or round table discussion) and ask people to share their experiences or brainstorm strategies for responding to cyberbullying.
  • Organize a Pledge Wall for others to write down their pledges to cyber safety.
  • Organize a contest for a poster, video, songwriting, poetry, website or PSA.
  • Organize and facilitate a parent training.
  • Inspire others to join your efforts by creating media alerts.  Start with press releases.  Remember, there is strength in numbers.

More Information

To learn more about how to stop bullying and how to help your friends or younger brothers and sisters, take a look at these websites.

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Attorney General's Office & Legal Services Division

The Attorney General’s Office, headed by Attorney General Tim Fox, and the Legal Services Division function as the lawyers for the State of Montana. The attorneys in the Office have expertise in a wide range of legal topics and handle a broad range of legal cases involving the State of Montana and its people.

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Children’s Justice Bureau

The Children’s Justice Bureau is an agency-wide initiative at the Montana Department of Justice dedicated to IMPROVING how we respond to child victims, DEVELOPING state-of-the-art approaches by keeping up with the newest research and, most importantly, HELPING child victims recover and move on with their lives.

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Forensic Science Division & State Crime Lab

The mission of the Montana Forensic Science Division is to use operationally efficient and financially responsible practices as the laboratory provides accurate, objective, and timely forensic analyses to the criminal justice community in order to maximize value to the citizens of Montana.

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Missing Persons Clearinghouse

The Missing Children Act of 1985 established a Montana Missing Persons Clearinghouse within the Department of Justice. In March 2008, the department implemented a searchable online database that, for the first time, is updated in real time and includes any photos provided by law enforcement.

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Office of Victim Services

The goal of the Office of Victim Services is to provide tools and information to help crime victims recover from their experience and provide them with a range of services available. The criminal justice system can be confusing and intimidating for victims. To assist them as they go through the justice system, the Office of Victim Service is available to answer any questions they may have.

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Central Services Division

The Montana Department of Justice’s Central Services Division provides financial and human resources support for the department. We make sure that everything works for the people Working for Justice. If you’re interested in a rewarding career helping protect the rights and safety of all Montanans, we invite you to join our team of over 800 dedicated employees working across the state.

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Justice Information Technology Services Division

Our Justice Information Technology Services Division (JITSD) provides vital Information Technology (IT) infrastructure upon which Montanans and lojitsdcal and state law enforcement agencies rely for timely, accurate information. JITSD manages the IT systems, services, and interfaces to support nearly 800 DOJ employees, 325 statewide county motor vehicle system users, and over 3,000 Criminal Justice Information Network (CJIN) users across the state.

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Division of Criminal Investigation

The Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at the Montana Department of Justice is involved in many aspects of Montana law enforcement and is integral to the Department dciof Justice’s mission of promoting public safety.

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Montana Highway Patrol

Montana is rich in natural beauty and history. From Glacier Park in the west to Makoshika Park in the east, the men and women of the Montana Highway Patrol are working hard to make your travels safe and enjoyable. The Highway Patrol’s core values are “Service, Integrity and Respect.” These values are reflected in our commitment to public safety through diligent and fair enforcement of our traffic codes.

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Montana Law Enforcement Academy

The Montana Law Enforcement Academy is the premier law enforcement and public safety educational and training institution for state, county, city and tribal officers throughout the state. The Academy offers entry-level programs referred to as Basic Programs and advanced training through an array of Professional Development Programs.

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Public Safety Officer Standards & Training

The Council was formed in 2007 under 2-15-2029, MCA as an independent Quasi-judicial board. And as allowed by statute the Council adopted Administrative Rules in order to implement the provisions of Title 44, chapter 4, part 4, MCA. Per 44-4-403, MCA the Council is required to set employment and training standards for all Public Safety Officers as defined in 44-4-401, MCA and in addition the Council shall provide for the certification or recertification of public safety officers and for the suspension or revocation of certification of public safety officers.

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Motor Vehicle Division

The mission of the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) is to identify and promote efficient, cost-effective programs that benefit the interests, safety, and well-being of Montana citizens through licensing, registering, and regulating the motoring activities of the public. The MVD continuously strives for excellence in customer service. Streamlining the way we do business has allowed us to improve our efficiency and make our services more convenient for our customers.

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Natural Resource Damage Program

The Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) was created in 1990 to prepare the state’s lawsuit against the Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) for injuries to the natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin (UCFRB). Decades of mining and mineral processing operations in and around Butte and Anaconda released substantial quantities of hazardous substances into the Upper Clark Fork River Basin between Butte and Milltown. These hazardous substances extensively degraded the area’s natural resources.

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Office of Consumer Protection

Enforce consumer laws designed to protect the consumer from unfair or deceptive business practices. Enforce statutes relating to telephone solicitation and telemarketing. Provide information to consumers about the Consumer Protection Act. Assist consumers by distributing consumer education materials including scam and consumer alerts. Investigate false, misleading, or deceptive trade practices.

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Gambling Control Division

Through the Gambling Control Division, the Department of Justice regulates all forms of gambling in Montana, except for the Montana Lottery and horse racing. The legislature has charged the division with maintaining a uniform regulatory climate that is fair and free of corrupt influences. The division is also responsible for collecting gambling revenue for state and local governments.

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Human Trafficking

The Montana Department of Justice has a continued commitment to victims of human trafficking. In partnership with federal authorities, our agency plays a key role in the investigation, enforcement, and prosecution of crimes related to human trafficking in Montana. This form of modern day slavery does happen here in Big Sky Country.

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Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Program

Montana’s deadliest drugs aren’t made in secret labs and they don’t always come from dealers on the corner. They’re in our own medicine cabinets. Each year, prescription drug abuse contributes to the deaths of more than 300 Montanans — making prescription drug abuse 15 times more deadly than meth, heroin and cocaine combined. Our kids report the third-highest rate of prescription drug abuse in the country and more than half of them say prescription drugs are easier to get than street drugs.

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Safe in Your Space

When it comes to embracing new technology, kids have rapidly outpaced their parents and teachers. By their early school years, many children are already more comfortable on the Internet than their parents. But just because children are smart enough to know how to navigate the Internet, doesn’t mean they have the experience to make good decisions about some of the possibilities they may face online.

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Montana Sexual or Violent Offender Registry

Created by the Montana Department of Justice in 1989, the Sexual or Violent Offender Registry is a valuable resource for Montanans to protect their families against sexual or violent offenders.

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Montana 24/7 Sobriety Program

Drinking and driving has been a chronic – and deadly — problem on Montana’s roadways for decades. In 2008, Montana was ranked as the deadliest state in the nation when it came to per capita DUI-related traffic fatalities.

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Work for Justice

Everyday at The Montana Department of Justice, our employees are dedicated to ensuring the well-being and rights of the people of our great state. We’re passionate about what we do because it’s more than a job or a career. It’s about who we are as people. If this sounds like you, your unique experiences, knowledge, and values may be just what the Montana Department of Justice is looking for and needs. In return we can offer a culture that promotes fairness and growth opportunities.

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