The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office is sharing information on how to recognize and deal with cyberbullying, as a new law prepares to go into effect.

Michigan’s new law, which goes into effect March 27th, officially defines cyberbullying and classifies it as a misdemeanor. The legislation states that cyberbullying is a crime punishable by a maximum of 93 days in jail or a fine of up to $500. It is considered a felony if an individual continues to show intimidating or harassing behavior or causes serious injury to the victim. Anyone found guilty faces up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. The law also states that anyone who shows a pattern of repeated harassment can face up to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

In a video posted to Facebook, Livingston County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Schuster defines cyberbullying as a form of harassment that takes place on an electronic device, particularly over social media, and can include sharing rumors or posting embarrassing photos intended to humiliate the victim. Schuster says the harassing behavior requires posting of a message or statement in a public media forum about any other person that is intended to instill fear of bodily harm. The message or statement may express intent to commit violence against the victim, and is posted with the intent to communicate the threat with the knowledge that it will be viewed as a threat.

Speaking to parents about their children, Schuster says those being cyberbullied may exhibit a reluctance to attend school or social activities, failing grades, use of substances, an onset of poor self-esteem or withdrawal from family and friends. He also says victims may have a change in moods or check social media and their texts more often, with both behaviors beyond what it is typically normal. Schuster encourages parents to teach their child about respectful and safe online communications, to keep a close eye on the activity occurring on their child’s electronic devices and to seek professional help if they believe their child is a victim or perpetrator of cyberbullying.

As for giving a youth tools for responding to cyberbullying, Schuster encourages parents to teach self-respect, empathy and self-control, in addition to modeling positive relationships. Schuster says he has found that the better adjusted a child is, the more resilient they may be if confronted by a bully.

You can learn more about how to recognize cyberbullying by visiting the link below, House Bill 5017 can be found at the attachment below. The video from the Livingston County Sheriff's Office can be found on their Facebook page. (DK)