Cyberbullying could soon be criminal in Arkansas

AP Graphic
Ark. Senate to vote on making cyberbullying a crime
(AP Graphic)

(CBS/KTHV) LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Arkansas Senate members will hear a presentation Thursday on a bill to make cyberbullying a crime.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Linda Chesterfield of Little Rock, expects a vote to follow and believes there is a good chance for the bill to pass.

"Only 10 percent of kids report being cyber-bullied when they are, so we need to improve that," Dr. Erick Messias, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Psychiatric Research Institute, told CBS affiliate KTHV.

Messias claims children don't often share these online attacks with adults because of trust issues and a fear of retaliation.

"It's important that the law recognize this type of behavior and starts to delineate what is appropriate, what is not appropriate and how to actually prosecute it," Messias said.

Senate Bill 214 carries a misdemeanor charge with a fine for cyberbullying behavior, reports KTHV. It targets attacks via computers and phones, including messages on popular social networking sites.

Chesterfield says even though some threats may be anonymous, technology can track down perpetrators.

Last week, President Barack Obama held a White House conference on bullying. According to the White House, approximately 13 million students are bullied every year.