HARRISBURG – This week, Rep. Mauree Gingrich (R-Lebanon) gave her enthusiastic support for legislation that would make it a crime to harass children via the Internet or other electronic communications.
Gingrich, an outspoken advocate for the protection of children, voted in favor of House Bill 229
, which would amend the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, making cyber-harassment of a child a third-degree misdemeanor. The bill would strengthen the current harassment language in the law, which is inadequate to address the ease with which a child can be harassed by means of electronic communication.
“We have all heard about the real life experiences and torment some children have endured via email and social networking sites,” said Gingrich. “The results can be devastating to these young victims and their families. In fact, there have been many cases across the country where cyber bullying has become so acute, that a child took his or her own life. It simply must not be tolerated.”
House Bill 229 would prohibit the use of electronic communications to repeatedly make statements or offer opinions about a child’s sexuality or sexual activity or make statements that significantly ridicule, demean or cause serious embarrassment to a child.
“There were only five negative votes on this bill, which tells me my colleagues recognize the need to protect children,” said Gingrich. “Our current harassment statutes are written to protect adults who are better equipped to fend off negativity. Children have undeveloped coping skills, and once alienated in this manner, they can carry the stigma with them into adulthood. This bill would recognize cyber bullying of children as a form of child abuse and would provide appropriate punishment for those who engage in it.”
The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Representative Mauree Gingrich
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Donna Pinkham