Protect yourself against cyber bullying

Jan 12, 2021.

Nowadays, almost everyone has a smartphone and can access the internet at any time. Children and teenagers are growing up in an online world. This has many benefits, but also harbours certain risks. Learn how to protect yourself and your children against cyber bullying, and what your rights are should you become a victim.

Unfortunately, “cyber bullying” is a commonly heard term these days, especially at school. But what exactly does it mean? Cyber bullying can take two forms. In one form, several perpetrators deliberately insult, threaten, embarrass or harass someone via internet or mobile phone over a longer period of time. The other type of cyber bullying attack is carried out by a single perpetrator.


Both forms typically involve:

  • spreading false information and rumours
  • distributing and uploading embarrassing, manipulated, compromising or pornographic photos and videos
  • creating (offensive) fake profiles
  • insulting, harassing, threatening and blackmailing someone by e-mail, text message, etc.
  • forming “hate groups” in which people can say negative things about others



Causes of cyber bullying

Cyber bullying mainly affects children and teenagers, but adults are not immune, either. However, because children first have to learn how to use social media platforms, chat apps and other online tools, the risk of abuse is particularly high among the young. “A child who is careful with their photos, videos and passwords can, of course, still become the victim of an attack,” explains Andreas Cossalter, Head of Legal Protection. 


The cause can always be traced back to a balance of power in the real world, often in schools, sports clubs or other groups. The victim and perpetrator will usually know each other in real life. It is unlikely that someone in Bern or Zurich would think of bullying a student in India or China, for example. “Although perpetrators sometimes use the anonymity of the internet to hide their identity, most of them will already know the victim,” says Andreas.


Bullies usually try to improve their status in a group by insulting or embarrassing others. They do not care about the victim’s feelings. In addition, they often are not aware that acts prohibited in the real world are also criminal offences when committed online.


Your rights as a victim of cyber bullying

In Switzerland, there is no specific law against cyber bullying. However, perpetrators can typically be prosecuted for the following offences under the Swiss Criminal Code:

  • Unauthorised access to a data processing system (Art. 143bis StGB)
  • Damage to data (Art. 144bis para. 1 StGB)
  • Extortion (Art. 156 StGB)
  • Defamation (Art. 173 StGB)
  • Wilful defamation (Art. 174 StGB)
  • Insult (Art. 177 StGB)
  • Breach of secrecy or privacy through the use of an image-carrying device (Art. 179quater StGB)
  • Obtaining personal data without authorisation (Art. 179novies StGB)
  • Threats (Art. 180 StGB)
  • Coercion (Art. 181 StGB)


Should the form of cyber bullying in a specific case constitute the criminal acts of extortion or coercion, the  police officially investigate the acts as soon as they become aware of the offence. This is because these offences are crimes that must be investigated by the police regardless of whether the victim reports them or not.


Other, “more minor” offences such as insulting someone are only investigated if the victim or their legal representative officially reports them to the police. Advisory bodies can be contacted to clarify the type of offence. Unlike the police, they do not have to take action if the affected parties do not want them to. Victims of an infringement of personal rights can also take legal action under civil law.



What you can do

As always, prevention is the best form of defence.  You can protect yourself and your children in many specific ways. The most important thing is to make your children aware of the risks. Here you can find information about what exactly you can do and how legal advice can help if you are having problems.


What is the best way to protect my child against cyber bullying?

  • Help your child become more media literate. Speak to them about the opportunities and risks associated with the internet.
  • Encourage your child to confide in you. Tell them they can and should speak to you if they are being bullied on social media or if they notice that someone else is being bullied.
  • Do not be afraid to raise the issue of cyber bullying. Even if you are not very tech-savvy yourself when it comes to using laptops, tablets and smartphones.
  • Create secure passwords for online accounts, and tell your child not to share them with anyone.
  • Make it clear to your child what the consequences of sharing sensitive data and information on online profiles might be. Use real incidents to show what can happen to photos or videos that end up on the internet. In addition, tell your child that photos can be manipulated – including erotic ones. At the same time, photos are very difficult to remove from the internet once they are online.
  • Make sure that your child only connects with real friends on social media, and adjust the privacy settings to be as conservative as possible.


What can I do if I think my child might be a victim of cyber bullying?

  • If you or your child have become a victim of cyber bullying, do not  keep it to yourself. Talk about it with someone you trust.
  • If you notice that your child is acting differently, speak to them about possible reasons. Do not close your eyes to the fact that your child can also be a perpetrator, not just a victim.
  • Try to speak to teachers and others who are involved.
  • Contact an advisory body.
  • Assert your rights if necessary. Legal protection insurance, which also covers cyber crime, can help you do so.


Legal advice in the event of cyber bullying

If you find yourself in a legal dispute despite having taken precautions, cyber insurance can be worthwhile. Legal protection is sometimes already included in household contents insurance. At Generali, legal protection against cyber crime is included in the following products:

“Those who reveal a lot about themselves online are more vulnerable to attack. A lack of media literacy and social skills also increases the risk of attack and is something that perpetrators exploit. Although the impact on the victim largely depends on how emotionally resilient they are, having someone trustworthy to turn to in times of need can make a real difference.”


Andreas Cossalter, Head of Legal Protection, Fortuna Legal Protection

Examples of what is covered include:

  • Asserting claims for damages.
  • Requesting parties under the threat of legal consequences to desist from making attacks that constitute an infringement of personality rights.
  • Requesting deletions or changes.
  • Cyber crime: asserting claims for damages if personal authentication data and credit cards are fraudulently used.
  • Cyber bullying: help in the event of infringement of personal rights through insult, libel or slander.
  • Internet contract law: help in case of disputes regarding online purchase/sales contracts.
  • And much more.


Please note that coverage differs depending on the chosen solution and variant. Details can be found in the General Policy Conditions or obtained directly from your local insurance specialist.



Where can I find out more?


NCSC, the National Cyber Security Centre


EBAS, independent platform for secure online banking, run by Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts


Swiss Crime Prevention, information portal focused on the topic of sextortion


Swiss Internet Security Alliance, association founded by Swiss business representatives in 2014, a website operated by Zurich Cantonal Police


Prevention centres of the cantonal police forces


Generali Cyber Safety Team


NEDIK, network of police authorities for combating cyber crime

About the author

The legal expert Andreas Cossalter manages the “Legal Hotline” team of Fortuna Legal Protection. Together with his trilingual team, he answers everyday legal questions and offers practical tips on how to avoid legal disputes.


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