Michigan’s new cyberbullying law: What it means to you

A new law in Michigan has taken effect that takes aim at cyberbullying, including hefty fines and jail time for violators convicted of online harassment.
Per the new law, it is illegal to cyberbully another person and someone found guilty of the misdemeanor could face a maximum of 93 days in jail, a max fine of $500 or both. But if a violator has a prior conviction, they could face up to a year in jail, and/or a max $1,000 fine.
Someone who violates the new law and displays “a continued pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior” that causes serious injury to the victim could face a felony that carries a maximum 5-year sentence and/or a $5,000 fine.
A violator whose continued online harassment causes the death of a victim can be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in jail for the felony and/or a $10,000 fine.
The new law, also known as enrolled House Bill No. 5017 was approved by former Gov. Rick Snyder on Dec. 24, 2018 and officially went into effect Wednesday, March 27, 2019.
In 2015, a 13-year-old Michigan girl committed suicide after being bullied and taunted by classmates on Facebook. At the time, police said the social media posts did not indicate criminal wrongdoing.
“Cyberbullying can cause just as much trauma as traditional bullying so it’s important that it be considered a crime,” Snyder said in a statement. “With this bill, we are sending a message that bullying of any kind is not tolerated in Michigan.”
Under the new law, cyberbullying involves:
Posting a message or statement in a public media forum about any other person that is intended to put someone in fear of bodily harm or death and expresses an intent to commit violence against the person.
Posting a message or statement with the intent to communicate a threat with the knowledge that it will be viewed as a threat.
A pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior.
A public media forum is defined in the law as “the internet or any other medium designed or intended to be used to convey information to other individuals, regardless of whether a membership or password is required to view the information.”
Cyberbullying takes place through an electronic device, particularly over social media. It can be anything from sending rumors on social media or posting embarrassing photos intending to humiliate the person. The online distribution creates a wider audience and the attacks are always 24/7, therefore the victim cannot get away from the attack.
Parents should monitor the behavior of their children to keep them safe from cyberbullying. Behaviors to watch for include;
Avoiding certain social activities and social situations,
High anxiety about attending school or riding a school bus,
Dropping grades, or changes in school performance,
Changes in moods — frequent sadness, irritability or depression that’s different from normal teenage Obsessive checking of texts or social media sites that are separate from normal,
Withdrawing from family and friends.
Parents can help their children by teaching self-respect and modeling positive relationships, empathy and impulse control.
More information about the cyberbullying law coming into effect can be found on the Michigan Legislature website.
Resource:Aleanna Siacon, Detroit Free Press, Published 11:49 a.m. ET March 25, 2019 | Updated 4:48 p.m. ET March 25, 2019

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