Every situation is different so by far the best way to find out how to respond to a social media legal issue is to speak to those who are most likely to have dealt with a situation similar to yours.
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Defamation against children
What to do if your child is defamed on social media
It is every parent’s nightmare to witness their child suffering whilst being unable to offer him or her meaningful support or protection.
It depends on the age of your child. If your child is attending school or college and the defamation of social media relates to other pupils or students who attend the school, you should report the defamation to the school. This is not to say that the school will definitely have the matter resolved.
Sadly, in most cases, schools tend to misjudge these types of situations and provided very little support to the child who is being defamed on the internet. Defamation on the internet is a form of bullying that the school should handle as such. However, in many cases, the false allegations against your child would be in relation to some sort of sexual assault where the school will feel that they are unable to intervene in favour of your child.
If your child is a pupil or a student who is facing harassment on the internet by way of publication of false allegations of sexual assault against him, the school will often be unable to help. False allegations of sexual assault are unfortunately common among school children. In most cases that this firm has dealt with, the false allegations would be either a complete falsity due to an unwanted break up of a relationship between two pupils, or an exaggerated version of a minor incident or an event, which has been inflated due to a misunderstanding or in some cases, due to a wilful desire to harm the pupil who initiated the breakup.
When a school is facing a dilemma of having to support the child against whom the false allegations are being made or the child who has made the allegations, the school will often feel uncomfortable appearing as not supporting the pupil making the allegations, at the expense of the pupil against whom the false allegation is being made.
The publication and dissemination of false allegations on social media against a student at the school or college is a form of bullying. Once the allegation of wrongdoing, which is often of sexual nature is made, pupils at the school feel that they have to take sides. Whilst they have not heard the side of the story of the pupil against who the false allegations are being made, many pupils will automatically take the said of the pupil who is making the false allegations.
The more serious the allegations are, the more likely other pupils are to take the side of the pupil making the allegations. Taking sides means in many cases, going to social media to express their sympathy publicly, repeating and disseminating the false allegations, ostracising the pupil because of the allegations, and in some cases, physically bullying and assaulting him.
if your child is being bullied because of false allegations on social media you should consider taking the following steps:
- Report the matter as bullying to the school. Make sure that you consult the school's relevant policies so that during your conversation with the school, you are able to point out specific section in the school's policy that requires the school to support your child.
- Report the harassment on social media to the police. You should report it as harassment to your local police station.
- Seek urgent legal advice from a solicitor with experience in social media law and in handling social media cases where school children are involved.
If your child is being bullied because of false allegations on social media, you should report the bullying to the school and to the police. In many cases, defamation on social media against students is likely to be considered a form of bullying and harassment.
If your child is being falsely accused of sexual assault on social media, he should still report the harassment to the police. If then, the person who made the initial allegations against your child decides to make a complaint to the police, your child might be asked to attend a police interview about those allegations.
However, in many cases, pupils who make allegations on social media against another pupil, particularly of sexual assault, already know that their allegations could not withstand fair scrutiny by the police, which is why they have decided to make the allegations on social media and not to the police.
Furthermore, if eventually the alleged victim is persuaded to file a formal complaint against your child with the police, it is highly likely that their preceding social media campaign against your child will prevent any meaningful police investigation or prosecution of your child because relevant evidence, including the account of the alleged victim, would have already been tainted due to the social media posts.
If your child is being harassed on social media, and the harassment is of serious nature, you should consider speaking to a specialist lawyer about your next move. Naturally, as a loving parent, you will be emotionally engaged with any matter that places your child at risk.
You might find it helpful to speak to a solicitor who has dealt with similar cases in the past and who can give you the clarity you need. It is helpful to have the child join the meeting, as the solicitor will be likely to share with your child some of the experiences of others who have been in a very similar situation.
Remember, there is usually a way out and a method that will help you solve the current issue that the family is facing. The sooner you seek legal advice, the quicker the matter could be resolved.
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