Online Safety & Digital Citizenship

Social Media can be a powerful tool personally and professionally so it’s important to evaluate best practices and engage in good netiquette. Unfortunately, not everyone will practice good digital citizenship. Here, you’ll found out what is considered cyberbullying, what to do if you’ve been targeted and additional resources to help address online safety.

How to be a good digital citizen

  • Who is your audience? Create a separate professional account and keep your personal account for close friends and family.
  • Think before you type! If you think it’s a bad idea to say something in-person, it’s a bad idea to say it online!
  • Consider what kinds of photos you are posting. You are constantly leaving a digital footprint so consider what images you are posting and whether you have permission to use them.
  • Assume best intentions. Treat others online as you’d like to be treated. There is no reason to jump to conclusions and be argumentative.
  • Don’t engage in heated debates online. These types of interactions can escalate quickly. You and those involved may write things you later regret. Instead, focus on ways to respectfully disagree.
  • Don’t be tone deaf! Body language and tone of voice are lost when communicating on the Internet. Consider what you are saying and evaluate if it can be interpreted in a different way. For example, a sarcastic joke may come across as a serious comment, framing your thought in a completely different way.
  • Don’t be insensitive. Avoid tasteless jokes or making derogatory remarks. This also means: don’t make fun of shows/movies etc. you may be working on OR not working on – imagine how you’d feel if you found out someone was mocking the TV show you poured hours into making.
  • Don’t use social media when you’re under the influence. You might say some things you regret!
Download our infographic on being a good Digital Citizen.

What is a cyberbully?

Anyone who sends any online communication—instant messenger, social media, email, etc—to deliberately frighten, embarrass, harass or otherwise target another is a cyberbully. Most of the time, the cyberbully knows the victim, and most of the time the cyberbully has been bullied too. Racism, intolerance, and fear can also play a role.

How It Works

  • Direct attacks are hurtful messages sent from the cyberbully directly to the target through email, social networking sites, instant messaging, or other forums. These messages might be anonymous or sent through fake accounts. They often target the victim relentlessly.
  • Indirect attacks or campaigns are widespread messages that hurt the victim’s reputation. Cyberbullies may start a website or a page on a social networking site dedicated to spreading hateful messages about the victim.
  • Invasions of privacy involve the cyberbully going through the victim’s computer or cell phone in order to find private emails, text messages, or photos and then sharing those personal details or pictures with others. 

Source: State of California Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General

Criminal Cyberbullying

California law makes two types of online or electronic conduct crimes.

Posting Personal Information to Cause Fear

Any person who electronically posts or transmits:

with the intent to cause the other person to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of family members commits a misdemeanor crime in California. (Cal. Pen. Code § 653.2.)

Use of Electronic Device to Harass

Any person who uses a telephone or any electronic means of communication to contact another person and:

  • uses obscene language, or
  • makes a threat to injure the person or property of the other person or a family member

with the intent to annoy the other person commits a misdemeanor crime in California. (Cal. Pen. Code § 653m.)

How is Criminal Cyberbullying Punished in California?

Both types of cyberbullying outlawed in California are misdemeanors. A person convicted of a misdemeanor in California faces a sentence of not more than one year in jail, a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. (Cal. Pen. Code § 653.2.)