Cyber Bullying and Harassment of Teenagers: the Legal Response

Category: Article Critique


This is a research article published in the Social Welfare and Family Law journal. The article addresses legal issues that can be implemented to regulate the traumatic psychological experiences that teenagers undergo online. However, the basis of the article is to analyze the criminal law, as well as civil law and how it addresses this idea. The author, Alisdair Gillespie, identified the problem and the legal solutions by carrying out extensive research. From the article, it is evident that the thoughts of a variety of authors have been gathered together to compose the entire article. Legal and criminal law documents have been used as primary sources to back up the authenticity of the research. These are the main steps carried out by the author to substantiate and argue the case. As a result, the author was able to culminate valuable information that indicated that there are legal solutions to the problem of cyber bullying and harassment.


In his introduction, the author does not limit his research and exploration to sexual harassment. However, according to the article “Cyber Stalking: An Analysis of Online Harassment and Intimidation”, by Michael Pittaro, published in the International Journal of Cyber Criminology, cyber criminology can be seen to be deeply rooted in sexual harassment. Gillespie explores online bullying and harassment from the perspective of cyber-stalking. His scope is not limited to the internet as many readers may assume from the title of the article. He further explores all modes of modern communication including text messages sent via mobile phone. This is contrary to Pittaro’s view, whose argument is based on online interaction with a special interest in the internet. Comparing the two articles on their mode of information presentation to the user, several issues can be discovered and addressed. Gillespie starts his argument with problem identification, which involves defining the behavior of adolescents in the sphere of modern technology. This provides a basis for the development of the article. On the other hand, Pittaro’s discovery is more persuasive and recounts the similarities between traditional and modern modes of harassments. He involves the reader in understanding the different changes that have been introduced by technology as a mode of communication and interaction. He starts by recounting the changes that the internet has undergone in modern days. As a result, this provides a well-cemented background for understanding harassment and cyber bullying as challenges facing this mode of communication.

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The argument of flaming as cited by the author to be a common problem that is a gate pass to harassment has not been fully supported. The author recounts this issue as a problem but fails to address its cause. “Posting of provocative or abusive posts to posting personal information” (Gillespie) is a common mode of harassment. The article fails to address the imminent problem of what leads teenagers to provide such posts. May it be search for fame, need to ridicule their friends or is it just a phase in life to be disoriented? If these issues were to be addressed at the beginning of the article, there could be more understanding when it comes to addressing cyber bullying and analyzing the laws to protect teenagers. There is an idea that the two authors share. They both argue that the internet is the major platform used to enhance and facilitate harassment and cyber bullying. It is after this realization that Gillespie shifts the attention of his reader to the analysis of different legal measures that can be taken to address the problem. The legal solutions are well founded on the protection of users’ rights during the event of open online interaction. The author argues that “people are entitled to a peaceful use of cyber-space” (Gillespie). This argument rhymes favorably with Pittaro’s abstract view of the society; “the society relies on the sheer size, technological power and the lightening speed of the internet to seek information, explore the unknown and virtually communicate with anyone anytime around the globe” (Pittaro).

The article “Online Harassment” by David Stone, addresses a different but unique perspective that the Gillespie fails to analyze. Contrary to the legal issues addressed by Gillespie, Stone’s attention is not focused on the law but on the individuals. His argument is more focused on the ways to minimize the potential of online harassment from a personal point of view. He does not relate to criminal or legal laws as solutions to bullying and online harassment. It can be argued that the author is conversant with the idea that different people face different modes of harassment during their online activities. Therefore, it is essential to understand that the success of curbing these issues solely lies within personal actions (Stone). He is convinced that “institutions should have an articulate structure of rights and a harassment policy” (Stone). This is a perspective that has not been addressed by Gillespie. According to his argument, he is more convinced that the protection of online users is the sole responsibility of the legal structure and shows methods of formulating these laws to fit the end user requirement. He fails to analyze the internal problems that are mainly posed by users making them vulnerable and exposed to harassment and cyber bullying.

The question of how relevant this article is to changing technological issues remains a matter of debate. The issue of online harassment remains a societal dilemma, and as addressed in the Wall Street Journal article “Sexual Harassment’s Legal Morass,” it is evident that changes in technology result in changes in modes of harassment. This is an issue that the author failed to address. According to the article written by Curt Levey titled “Sexual Harassment’s Legal Morass,” looking at the legal challenges and ways to curb bullying is not merely enough; there needs to be a body that keeps the laws in check and up to date (Levey). Even though technology has helped people in a lot of ways, a person must realize its drawbacks and balance the use of technology with the physical interaction with others. The balance must be kept for technology to be helpful instead of detrimental. Children must be properly educated in the use of the internet to avoid any physical or psychological harm from others.


In conclusion, the author addresses legal claims that must be made to ensure online security. However, education on secure browsing and online interaction is the most effective way to eliminate cyber bullying, harassment and intimidation. Developing ways to protect a person is more effective than waiting for lawful claims once the damage has already occurred.