Cyberbullying and Cyberstalking Laws in Florida

Understand how Florida law defines and punishes cyberbullying and cyberstalking.

By | Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney

Anyone who harasses another person using an electronic form of communication commits a crime in Florida. Florida law also prohibits bullying (including cyberbullying via electronic means) at public schools and directs each school to enact an anti-bullying policy.

This article discusses cyberbullying and cyberstalking laws in Florida. For information about cyberbullying in general, see Teen Cyberbullying and Harassment.

Florida's Definition of "Cyberbullying"

Florida defines "cyberbullying" in its education laws. Cyberbullying means "bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication." The statute includes email, internet communications, instant messages, faxes, websites, and blogs in its descriptive and nonexclusive list of electronic means of bullying. (Fla. Stat. § 1006.147 (2022).)

Cyberbullying in Schools

Under Florida law, cyberbullying of any student or employee of a public K-12 school is prohibited. Cyberbullying against a student is conduct that:

  • places a student in reasonable fear of bodily harm or harm to their property
  • substantially interferes with the student's ability to perform academically or enjoy educational benefits and opportunities, or
  • substantially disrupts the orderly functioning of the school.

Examples of Cyberbullying

Florida law defines cyberbullying in schools as conduct that systematically and chronically inflicts physical or psychological distress upon a student or students. Such conduct may include teasing, social exclusion, threats, intimidation, violence, theft, sexual, religious or racial harassment, public or private humiliation, or destruction of property.

Anti-Bullying School Policies

Each public K-12 school in Florida must adopt and enforce an anti-bullying policy that conforms to the model policy mandated by the state Department of Education. Based on this model policy, each school's policy must describe what behavior is prohibited and how it will be punished, set up reporting and investigation procedures, require notification to parents, and provide referrals to counseling.

Immunity From Lawsuits

Any school employee, student, parent, or school volunteer who makes a prompt, good-faith report of bullying in compliance with the school's anti-bullying policy is immune from a civil lawsuit by any person for making that report. This means that a person who makes a prompt, good-faith report of bullying cannot be sued by anyone for alleged damages caused by the report.

Florida's Definition of "Cyberstalking" as a Crime

Florida law defines "cyberstalking" under its criminal stalking laws.

What Is Cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking includes causing a victim substantial emotional distress by:

  • engaging in a pattern of electronic communications directed at a specific person, or
  • accessing or attempting to access another's online accounts or internet-connected systems without permission.

A person is guilty of stalking or aggravated stalking if they willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly harass or cyberstalk another person. (Fla. Stat. § 784.048 (2022).)

How Is Cyberstalking Punished in Florida?

A person convicted of cyberstalking commits a first-degree misdemeanor and faces a possible jail sentence not to exceed one year, a fine not to exceed $1,000, or both.

Cyberstalking becomes a felony of the third degree if any of the following are true:

  • the victim is a child younger than 16
  • the defendant's conduct violates an injunction for protection or similar court order, or
  • the defendant makes a credible threat of harm to the victim or their family or close acquaintances.

This conviction carries up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

(Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082, 775.083, 784.048 (2022).)

Talk to a Lawyer

If you or anyone you know has experienced or been accused of stalking or bullying, you may want to speak with a lawyer experienced in criminal defense or education law in your area.

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