Internet Accountability: Cyberbullying Claims Could Fall under Your Homeowner’s Policy

The Internet has been in our homes since the 90’s and bullies have been around even longer. Put these two ingredients together and that could make for an unwanted recipe with your homeowner’s insurance. In recent years there has been an increase in awareness regarding online harassment, also known as “cyberbullying”. It is a way to denigrate people while remaining private and avoiding accountability for actions. People’s homeowner’s insurance has come under fire for this activity and now carriers are assessing whether to cover these activities or not. Some policies are excluding it entirely while others are allowing for amendatory endorsements or covering the exposure through umbrella policies.

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), “the percentage of students age 12-18 who reported being bullied at school has increased 24.5 percent since 2003, with the latest data samples from 2007.” Also an article in Best’s Review Monthly Insurance News Magazine states data collected by the Pew Internet and American Life Project puts 95 percent of teens using the internet. The article also indicates that the same study found 41 percent of teens who use social media say they have experienced at least one negative outcome from their online exchanges. If you have teens that enjoy social media connections, this could open up potential liability that may fall under homeowner’s insurance.

Insurance carriers are researching what they will cover and what they will not. With most cyberbullying coming from underage users, homeowner’s policies could allow provisions for this coverage. Some policies may be non-restricted and allow for some coverage of electronic aggression when the offender is a minor through either an amendatory endorsement or an umbrella policy. However, companies may require parental control and monitoring to reduce the risk of negligent supervision.

Coverage may also be available through a semi-restricted policy which further limits coverage through modifications to the definitions and exclusions in existing homeowners endorsements or personal umbrellas. Coverage would also be limited to minors only.

Restricted policies would be the least permissive and items under the cyberbullying definition may be removed to exclude coverage for various aspects of this electronic aggression. Restricted policies would also cover minors only.

As you can see, internet interactions can possibly become a liability with the increase in social media activity by young people. Should you have any questions about your specific homeowner’s policy, and whether your policy covers this potential liability, your advisors here at Barker, Beck, Collins and Kronauge Agency are only a phone call away. We look forward to hearing from you!