Criminalization of children’s online behaviour

The criminalization of Children’s online behaviour most often arises in the context of cyberbullying, which is defined as “wilful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices”.[i]

The complexity of the digital medium and the implications for minority children create difficulties in discerning how to best approach legislation pertaining to cyberbullying and the criminalization of online behaviour.[ii]

Policies on online behaviour must distinguish severe offensive online behaviours that merit legal attention and childish online behaviours that should be handled outside of the legal framework. Child friendly justice systems must have clear and comprehensive laws that can protect children from re-victimization, provide child-sensitive reporting procedures and effective remedies and repair the harm done while preventing the criminalization of children. Comprehensive training and awareness must be initiated for justice officials and others dealing with children and online behaviour.



[i] Hinduja, Sameer, and Justin Patchin. “Cyberbullying: Identification, Prevention, and Response.” Cyberbullying Research Center, 2010,
[ii] Berkman Center for Internet and Society, “Cyberbullying: Should Cyberbullies be Prosecuted?”, available at:, Dec. 3, 2019.


Disclaimer: Authors are the Global Initiative on Justice with Children with pro-bono support from Baker McKenzie. This section represents one among other positions of some members of the World Congress Consortium and does not necessarily represent the view of all institutions and members  involved.