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Cyberbulling Implicates Defamation, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Our online, social media-centric lives have transformed bullying from an act that most commonly took place on school playgrounds and in school hallways into an act more likely to occur online on sites such as Facebook, Twitter or over the phone through text message.

According to statistics provided by the Cyberbulling Research Center, about half of teenagers have reported being the target of online bullying, and 10 to 20 percent of the Center's survey respondents indicated that they are regular targets of cyberbullying.

Ohio has two laws aimed at bullying . The first is the newly-passed " Jessica Logan Act," which took effect in 2012. The Jessica Logan Act is administrative in nature - it merely requires school districts to adopt policies that prohibit cyberbullying.

The other law is found in Ohio Revised Code 2903.211, aka "Menacing by Stalking" which is a first-degree criminal misdemeanor.

Sometimes, however, a prosecutor's office will decline to file criminal charges against a cyberbully for any number of reasons. Therefore, in order to hold bullies accoutable for their harmful actions, a victim should also explore their options under Ohio's civil legal system.

Civil law provides two primary redresses for bullying victims: the torts of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Defamation is the publication of false information that causes injury to a person's reputation or exposes the person to public hatred, contempt, ridicule, shame or disgrace or affects the person adversely in their trade or business. There are two kinds of defamation: slander and libel. Slander refers to spoken defamatory words while libel refers to written defamatory words.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) is conduct, done purposely or recklessly, that is extreme or outrageous and results in severe emotional distress.

The kind of messages that are sent over the internet or through group text message can certainly meet the definition of Defamation and IIED.

Further, Ohio law now recognizes the tort of Invasion of Privacy, including False Light Invasion of Privacy. These are other civil actions that may be used to hold a cyberbully accountable for his or her actions.

If you feel that you've been bullied, consider consulting with a personal injury attorney in your area who may be able to apprise you of your rights in accordance with Ohio's civil law.

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