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Newsletter

22Feb. 2015

Are You Exposed to Cyberbullying?

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It was a sad moment for Western Massachusetts in 2010 when news of Phoebe Prince’s suicide in South Hadley brought the region to national attention in the context of bullying in school. My twins were in high school and similar in age to both Phoebe and her tormenters when she died.

As a parent, I felt compassion for Phoebe’s parents for their loss and also for the parents of the bullies who were unaware of their children’s actions. If you are the parent of a teenager, you know what I mean when I say that it is often hard to know what your children are doing.

The case also highlighted the use of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is bullying through the use of technology or electronic communication. It can include threatening text messages, impersonating someone online with the intention of hurting them, spreading rumors via text or social media, and taking and sharing unflattering pictures of someone via cell phone or social media, among other damaging tactics.

Over 80 percent of teenagers use a cell phone regularly, making it a choice medium for cyberbullying. Half of the teenage population reports experiencing some form of cyberbullying. Ten to 20 percent experience it regularly.

Though perhaps little solace, unwitting parents of teenage cyberbullies may be covered by the personal injury portion of their homeowners policy if the cyberbullying results in bodily injury.

The personal injury coverage that I am referring to comes in an enhancement to homeowners policies that we at Webber & Grinnell add as standard operating procedure. The enhancement also adds important coverages like libel, slander, and replacement cost for the contents of your household and increases the limit of coverage for jewelry, money and securities.

The endorsement may also add the category of “mental anguish” to the definition of bodily injury, which is not included in the unendorsed version.

This broadening enhancement does add to the cost of the homeowners policy premium, but we believe the benefits are well worth the expense.

It is often the case that the parents of teenage cyberbullies have no idea that their children are engaging in this unfortunate activity.

Parents who are unaware of their children’s cyberbullying would be covered in the case of a lawsuit that names them as a result of the cyberbullying. The coverage would be applicable to their defense to the limit of the policy. If the parents have a personal umbrella policy, that would extend their coverage further.

If the parents are knowingly part of the cyberbullying or directing it, then it would be classified as intentional and they would not be covered.

My role as your insurance agent sometimes means raising unpleasant subjects. I hope this information has been helpful to you and am happy to answer any questions you may have.

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