A taunt, or even a malicious lie, is hurtful enough when uttered on a school playground or in the cafeteria. When the same slur is tweeted or posted on Facebook, it graduates to a whole new level. And children might not be the only ones accountable for it.
Parents might find themselves on the hook legally for what their children say online. Tweets or posts that cross the line are prompting defamation of character or libel lawsuits.
Consider these cases: A Georgia teenager is suing classmates and their parents for libel for allegedly creating a Facebook account in her name and posting racist comments. And a Houston father recently settled his lawsuit against three children and their parents for allegedly targeting his daughter in malicious posts on Facebook.
If you think you’ll be covered under your homeowners insurance, think again. Most policies generally cover bodily injury and property damage. But bodily injury, legally speaking, doesn’t include libel, which is often at the heart of many cyberbullying cases. And even if you include bodily injury under your endorsement, there are significant gray areas in what is covered and what’s not.
While it’s not a guarantee, parents may be able to close gap in their policies by following these three steps:
1. Expand bodily injury definition to “personal injury” to include slander, libel, defamation of character and other items. Even if personal injury is in your policy, some insurance carriers will still make the call or whether or not you’re covered. To be sure, it’s best to check with your agent.
2. Look into umbrella policies that may offer broader coverage. An umbrella policy would expand the definition of bodily injury and boost liability limits to the $1 and $2 million range.
3. Get a tailored digital media insurance policy. These are cutting edge products tailored to the Internet. Designed similarly to a defamation-type policy a celebrity or famous person might carry in the event that they say something unintentionally and irrevocably damaging.
The new reality is that schoolyard disagreements have moved online. Something said waiting for the bus is not the same as something posted publicly on a social media site. That digital public declaration may just wind up in court someday. If you and your family are regularly online, expanding your policy is something worth considering.
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