Teens and young children spend more and more of their time online, so it isn’t surprising that they fight online as well. Angry words that were once shouted in a school hallway are now likely to be expressed on social media pages like Facebook or Instagram.

But when angry behavior becomes harassing, then teens can face criminal prosecution in Calgary for cyberbullying.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying involves children, preteens, or teens who bully other children, preteens, or teens using mobile phones, the Internet, or interactive and digital technologies. If adults are involved, then cyberbullying becomes cyberstalking or cyber-harassment, which are also serious crimes.

Bullying can take many forms, including:

  • Tormenting
  • Threatening
  • Humiliating
  • Embarrassing
  • Harassing
  • Targeting

A recent case out of Nova Scotia provides an example of this. A group of teens started an online chat group to cyberbully a 15-year old boy. The members of the group made degrading comments about the boy’s personal hygiene and body, as well as about his mother and girlfriend. One member commented that the boy should kill himself and posted a picture of a knife pointing at a wrist. Police arrested a 16-year-old and charged him with criminal harassment.

Another area of concern is the distribution of intimate images without a person’s consent. In fact, Canada passed Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, precisely to criminalize this type of conduct. The bill went into effect in 2015 and would, for example, criminalize the publication of someone’s private photos.

Possible Punishment

Calgary takes cyberbullying seriously, and defendants may be prosecuted if a criminal complaint is made. Your maximum punishment will depend on what criminal offence you are charged with. For example, if you are charged with criminal harassment, then you can be imprisoned up to 10 years, or you can be imprisoned for up to two years if you are charged with uttering threats.

If you are a young offender under 18 years of age, then you potentially face less serious punishments. Offenders over age 12 but under 18 may face the following:

  • A judicial reprimand (basically a stern lecture from the judge)
  • Fines
  • Restitution (pay the victims money)
  • Community Service
  • Probation

Are There Defences for Cyberbullying?

Not every negative remark on social media or through email should result in a criminal prosecution. If it did, then all communication would probably cease, so the government cannot be too aggressive prosecuting every nasty online exchange.

If you are charged with criminal harassment, then one defence is to argue that your comments were too infrequent to rise to a level of “repeatedly communicating” with someone, as is required by the Criminal Code. Another defence is to argue that the victim did not “reasonably fear” for their safety, which is also an element of criminal harassment.

Contact a Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been accused of cyberbullying, you need immediate legal representation. At Bourdon Defence, our team works aggressively to secure a favourable result for our clients. Call us today at 403-474-4143 or send an email using our online contact form.