In some cyberbullying cases, it may be advisable to inform the local police department or consult an attorney. Very few cases of cyberbullying are being reported to the police, and even fewer are found to have characteristics of criminal acts and are investigated, eve fewer are persecuted. However, it might be better to err on the side of caution.
In most European countries, professionals working with children are required to report to authorities if they suspect a child is being abused, in danger or if there is a criminal act being planned. This is called ‘mandated reporting’. Often, schools and organizations have procedures and rules in place for such situations. It is advisable to review such rules and consider how they might be applicable to cyberbullying.
It might be difficult to assess if an incident or behaviour needs to be reported to authorities, especially in the context of cyberbullying. Some questions to consider are: Was the child physically or psychologically harmed in the incident? Does the incident pose a future threat to the wellbeing of the child? Would a reasonable, impartial person believe that there is a serious threat? Is there anyone that can be consulted? Often police officers specializing in child protection or cyber-crime are happy to help you discern if the case should be reported, or a national agency dealing with cyber safety might be able to provide some insight.
Lack of awareness about reporting cyberbullying can be detected in many settings. For example, a study of national-level guidelines for cyberbullying prevention and intervention in 27 European countries1 found that whereas the importance of maintaining privacy and the need for reporting procedures were mentioned in around 50% of the guidelines, only about one-third included references to reporting incidents to the Police.