How much trouble can a teen get into for cyberbullying?

Teenagers are typically more technologically savvy and connected than their parents. They use messaging apps and social media sites their parents may not even know about, which means that despite a parent’s best efforts, their child can still do things they are not supposed to do online.

This is one reason why cyberbullying remains a pervasive issue among Canadian teens. Therefore, it can be crucial to know just how much trouble a young person can get into if they engage in cyberbullying.

Types of cyberbullying behaviours

Parents and teens may not necessarily know what cyberbullying actually looks like. It’s not necessarily just a nasty comment on someone’s social media or posting an unflattering picture of a friend.

Candian laws define cyberbullying as any action using computers and other devices to humiliate, harass, torment or threaten the targeted individual. Some common examples include:

  • Intentionally sharing an inappropriate photo or video to embarrass someone
  • Sending threatening texts
  • Hacking into a person’s account to access or send messages and photos 
  • Creating online polls to rate others to make people feel bad
  • “Catfishing” someone, or posing as someone else to get the target to disclose personal, intimate information and then sharing 
  • Flooding a person’s texts, social media account or email with mean messages or downvotes

These actions can seem harmless to a teen, especially if their friends are doing the same things. And they may have a false sense of anonymity sitting behind a screen or think that just because someone deletes something, it completely disappears. 

However, cyberbullying can result in legal charges in Canada, and there are serious penalties.

Possible penalties

Young people can suffer penalties in their personal life and consequences at school and their extracurricular activities. Those charged with offences related to cyberbullying also face:

  • Imprisonment
  • Seizure of phones, computers and other devices used to bully
  • Fines and other penalties

When parents and teens understand the severe penalties that could result from bullying actions online, it can be easier to appreciate how important it is to avoid these behaviours. And if a young person does wind up arrested and facing criminal charges, calling a lawyer to discuss the defense options can be crucial.

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