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    Do your parents have “cyberbullying” insurance?

    Date: 07.25.11 | by Judge Tom.

    You are undoubtedly aware of the increase of incidents of bullying online and by cell phone. For statistics about the ages of bullies and victims, take a look at Stomp Out Bullying.

    The main point here is that cyberbullying can expose your parents to civil liability. That means they can be sued for any harm you cause another by your online activities. The growing number of personal injuries and deaths of bullying victims has caught the attention of the insurance industry in America.

    Most home insurance policies do not cover incidents of cyberbullying. In fact, starting in October, 2011, many insurance companies will specifically exclude what they call “electronic aggression” from their liability coverage. That means if you cause mental or physical harm to someone by posting mean, harassing comments, blogs, photos, etc., your parents may be sued in a court of law.

    Photo by EnglishKid01 (Flickr)

    The American Association of Insurance Services supplies standardized forms to more than 700 insurance companies in the United States. They have amended their personal umbrella policy forms to exclude electronic aggression which is defined as “including but not limited to harassment or bullying committed by means of an electronic forum, including but not limited to a blog, an electronic bulletin board, an electronic chat room, a gripe site, a social networking site, a website, or a weblog; or by other electronic means, including but not limited to email, instant messaging, or text messaging.”

    The Insurance Services Office, another provider of forms to insurance companies, is addressing cyber liability by offering optional personal injury coverage with specific limitations.

    Until recently, the insurance industry had focused on reducing online security breaches and theft of confidential data. A parents’ exposure to liability from their child’s social networking life has resulted in a need for insurance protection.

    Check out this story about the consequences of student internet speech on and off-campus.

    There is also the case of Justin S. who created a website at home called “Teacher Sux.” He was critical of teachers and made sexual comments about them. The consequences were devastating to one of the teachers who had to take medical leave for the next year. She and her husband sued Justin’s parents. A jury awarded $450,000.00 in damages to the victim and $50,000.00 to her husband for loss of companionship.

    Bottom line:  “Think B4 U Click”

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    9 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Askthejudge.info
      Mon, 25 Jul 2011 at 05:33

      Insurance companies are excluding cyberbullying or "electronic aggression" from coverage. http://fb.me/MoD4Zuwp

    • Askthejudge.info
      Tue, 26 Jul 2011 at 12:41

      New blog post: Do your parents have "cyberbullying" insurance? http://ow.ly/1dXIxA

    • Oklahoma City Divorce Attorney Matt Ingham
      Wed, 27 Jul 2011 at 01:41

      Carrying cyberbullying insurance seems excessive, but it does make sense. In the American legal system if a child is over a certain age but still a minor, then the parents can be held civilly liable for the misdeeds of the child.
      Some states have parent liability statutes with varying limitations such as $10,000 or $25,000. In those states without such protection for parents, a jury verdict of negligence against a parent with a million dollar damage award would be devastating. So, with the epidemic of cyberbullying among our youth, extended coverage is something to consider.

    • Heather B
      Thu, 28 Jul 2011 at 08:48

      I’m just going to raise my kids to not be bullies :)
      Great point, Heather. More parents should assume the full responsibilities of parenting from day one.

    • Beth W.
      Thu, 28 Jul 2011 at 09:12

      I’d never buy cyberbullying insurance for my children. I’d just pay off the lawsuit and then take it out of their allowances…$2/wk :)

    • Vicki
      Tue, 02 Aug 2011 at 06:47

      Back in my day we didn’t have to worry about stuff like that. The world has turned crazy.

    • Beth S.
      Wed, 03 Aug 2011 at 01:20

      Cyberbullying is becoming a real problem. I’m not sure what parents should do in order to reduce their exposure to liability???

    • Pam
      Wed, 03 Aug 2011 at 05:59

      That sounds expensive.
      We don’t know what the premiums run but the coverage would only be worthwhile if you think one of your kids has tendencies to be a bully and might go after someone online. Some lawsuits against parents have been successful with juries awarding the victim of the cyber attack tens of thousands of dollars. It’s hard to tell if this additional insurance coverage is necessary, but having the option to buy is good.
      (This is information only – not legal advice)

    • Divorce Lawyers Tulsa
      Fri, 26 Aug 2011 at 09:01

      No thanks. Sounds expensive.

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