The Costs of Cyberbullying to Families
Cyberbullying can have unexpected and far-reaching costs. Those that have been the victims of cyberbullying cite extreme emotional damage, ranging from a drop in self-confidence to decreased appetite to drug and alcohol use to bad grades to suicidal thoughts.
While the emotional cost of bullying is often what gets discussed when the issue arises, many do not consider the very real financial and economic costs associated with this pervasive form of online abuse.
The Costs Add Up
There is, of course, the obvious financial cost of mental health care, whether it be counseling with a mental health care professional or a more extreme route of prescription drugs to aid with depression and anxiety exacerbated by cyberbullying.
This can quickly become expensive — the National Institute for Mental Health reported in 2006 that the average mental health care cost per person was $1,591 and the rate was even higher for services for children and teens at $1,931. Thus, caring for a victim of cyberbullying can quickly become expensive. What’s more– studies show that bullying has lingering effects from childhood and that those who are bullied are 12% more likely to be in poverty than those who were not. This comes from a combination of the cost of medical care and a correlation to lack of drive and motivation that prevents some victims from working to their fullest potential.
This can also be traced to school absences and poor grades as a teen as a result of bullying. 8% of middle school and high school students admit to skipping school to avoid being bullied — if the absences mount, this can have a direct impact on school performance and GPA.
Many do not realize that the cost of cyberbullying as manifested in school absences also costs our schools and educators money. Schools are awarded funding from the government based on Average Daily Attendance, and the more absences a given school has the less funding they will receive.
Based on the amount of reported absences due to bullying, schools are losing approximately $21,600 per year due to absences — this can mean that more experienced teachers, valuable extracurricular programs, and more are cut due to funding issues, which could perpetuate the vicious cycle of bullying stunting academic success and opportunity.
Does Cyberbullying Affect The Cost of Insurance?
Beyond the more obvious costs of mental health care and the long-term effects cyberbullying might have on earning potential, cyberbullying also has the potential to incur serious legal fees for victim and bully alike. Indeed, the cost of cyberbullying has become so high that now some insurance providers are beginning to offer coverage as part of their homeowners insurance packages to help with the cost of legal fees, psychological counseling, and in extreme cases, public relations damage control.
The average cost of the cyberbullying insurance is an additional $70/year, which may be excessively protective, but pales in comparison to potential counseling and legal fees. Hiring a lawyer to go after cyberbullies and track patterns of online abuse can cost families thousands of dollars — something many simply cannot afford.
But for others, the cost that cyberbullying can have on their long-term reputation, if lies or naked photos or explicit texts are being shared on the web, is far greater than the investment in a lawyer to help defend one’s public image — consider the impact of this type of content if your teen is applying for college or a job. Would you be willing to spend any amount to protect their future? These are the very real choices many families face when dealing with fallout from cyber-bullying.
The Legal Costs of Online Harassment
On the flip side, there are also legal fees and fines for those found guilty of online harassment, so even if your child is not the victim of bullying, you could find yourself facing unexpected fees for their involvement in cyberbullying. In some states, cyber-bullies can be slapped with fines of up to $2500 for their actions. This can be in place of or in addition to jail time.
Additionally, other states occasionally hold cyberbullies responsible for the legal fees (and other reparations) of their victims. None of this includes the potential legal fees families can spend defending their child and their actions. Though the psychological toll might not be as high if your child is the bully and not the victim, the legal fees and fines could mount quickly.
Finally, returning to the issue of mental health, it must also be noted that there are even worse costs for children and teens who become so distraught from cyberbullying that they are driven to attempt suicide. None of the financial costs could match the emotional anguish of this consequence, but they must be noted. If they are unsuccessful, the costs of mental counseling, psychiatric care and monitoring, and more, are not cheap. If the worst should happen, the costs of a funeral are both financially and emotionally unthinkable.
Cyberbullying can be extremely damaging to families — both in the emotional and mental toll they exact on children and their parents, but also in regards to financial and economic consequences.