The insurance against cyberbullying is real. This is what it covers

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Traditionally, insurance has covered damage to homes, cars and consumer health, but in recent years new policies have appeared on the market covering an ever-growing list of expenses. Today, people can avoid financial loss due to annulling weddings, dropping out of college, or even having a sick pet. Now there’s a new insurance product on the block: Cyberbullying Protection.

While cyberbullying is relatively common, and in some cases can lead to costly damage, insurance against this growing threat remains a niche product. For monthly bonuses starting at around $ 5, a small list of companies claim that they will help victims of cyberbullying recover expenses related to legal fees or psychotherapy costs resulting from online harassment.

But before you rush out to buy it, note that experts say this type of cover may not be for everyone, especially if you buy it to replace standard online security practices, or if you already have health insurance that covers mental health care. Here is what you need to know.

What does cyberbullying protect against?

Cyberbullying Research Center defines cyberbullying as “willful and repeated harm caused by the use of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices”. In a 2020 survey by the center, 15% of 9 to 12 year olds said they had been cyberbullied at some point in their lives. The centre’s 2019 survey, meanwhile, found that nearly 37% of young people aged 12 to 17 had been victims of cyberbullying in their lifetime, and just over 17% had been victimized in the last 30 years. last days.

Online rumors and hurtful comments are the most common form of cyberbullying for teens, affecting almost a quarter of cyberbullying targets. More serious bullying, such as threats to physical safety or posting mean images or racist remarks, affects up to 12% of teens who said they had been bullied online in the past 30 days .

Adults are also affected. Pew data from 2020 found that 41% of American adults had experienced some kind of online harassment and about one in 10 had experienced more serious forms of online harassment, such as sexual harassment or stalking. Christie Alderman, head of innovative cyber solutions at Chubb, an insurance company that sells cyberbullying insurance, says online harassment of ex-partners is one of the most common scenarios she hears about among adult policyholders.

While many insurance policies cover physical assets, cyberbullying insurance protects against more nebulous threats – lost online data, damaged reputations, and emotional fallout caused by harassment. Alderman says Chubb’s cyberbullying policy covers everything from hiring a lawyer for wrongful dismissal or discipline to expenses related to temporary relocation, tutoring, or increased tuition fees in the event of a school transfer. Insurance could even cover the cost of public relations assistance if cyberbullying issues end up in the media.

While these forms of protection can be useful in more rare and serious cases, the emotional damage caused by online harassment is more common than the financial damage. Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and professor of criminology at Florida Atlantic University, says cyberbullying has been linked to physical health issues, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, as well as to other mental disorders.

So many targets of cyberbullying would benefit from mental health counseling to help them overcome the traumatic experience, says Hinduja. Most cyberbullying insurance policies, including Chubb’s policy, also cover psychiatric care or absence from work or school, but only if problems are observed by a mental health professional.

Before a policy pays, policyholders must prove the damage. Chubb policyholders, for example, must prove at least two acts of harassment or intimidation related to an electronic device that result in measurable harm, such as wrongful dismissal, false arrest, wrongful discipline, or a diagnosis of mental anguish. resulting in the inability to attend school or work for more than a week. You don’t have to pay a deductible before Chubb’s cyber protection takes effect.

Where can you buy cyberbullying policies?

Typically, companies that offer home insurance, such as Chubb and Nationwide, are the ones that sell cyber protection insurance. Insurance startup Waffle also sells cyber protection, although its plans are underwritten by Chubb.

Right now, if you buy a cyberbullying policy through Chubb, it will need to be added to a policy for homeowners. Chubb customers can add its Family Protection Plan, which includes cyberbullying coverage as well as coverage against threats such as stalking and road rage, or add a specific cyber protection plan, which focuses on coverage against cyberbullying and other cyber risks, such as a privacy breach where someone posts private information online.

Alderman says policies can cost as little as $ 70 per year, depending on the amount of coverage and the location of the consumer.

Chubb introduced its Cyberbullying Protection in 2016, leading the charge in personal cyber insurance. Insurance consultant Dan Weedin, owner of Emerging Risk Solutions, says cyber insurance in general has shifted towards business over the past decade and has “really gained momentum” over the past decade. the last four or five years, with more and more companies investing in policies. to protect against cyber attacks such as data breaches.

“You have just seen cyberinsurance enter the world of personal insurance,” Weedin says. In 2019, only about 10% of Americans who own internet-connected devices have insurance policies to help them recover from a cyberattack, according to a 2019 Insurance Information Institute survey.

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Do you really need cyberbullying insurance?

Weedin predicts that more and more insurers will start adding general cyber protection, including cyberbullying, to their personal insurance policies to keep pace with their competitors.

That said, cyberbullying insurance is not something the masses need to start buying right away, even as more companies introduce it, says Doug Heller, a consumer insurance expert. Federation of America.

“There are a lot of very specialized products that tend to exploit people’s vague fears of the unknown, but they often don’t make much in terms of claims,” he says.

In the case of cyberbullying, Heller says loss rates, or what an insurance company spends versus what it earns in premiums, are low. According to her estimates, insurance companies pay around a dollar for every $ 10 they earn on such policies, suggesting that claims or approved payments are rare.

Additionally, since emotional damage is the most likely result of online harassment, cyberbullying coverage may be redundant if you have health insurance that covers mental health care. “If you have health care that covers your mental health needs, there is no exclusion in your policy if those needs are the result of cyberbullying,” Heller explains.

The thoroughness with which insurance companies approve claims is one of the main questions Hinduja asks about consumers investing in coverage.

“What concerns me is how much difficulty insurance companies have to get targets to prove they have been victimized in a way that triggers coverage,” he says. “If the target previously had some kind of relationship with the abuser, does that compromise the coverage?” If there is no digital evidence, does this compromise coverage? “

While Heller says investing in your family’s online safety is a big concern, he generally recommends precautions to prevent online harassment rather than safety nets.

“There are probably better ways to invest in protecting your family than paying money for insurance coverage that is very unlikely to be of use,” he says.

For starters, Hinduja recommends turning on privacy settings on social media sites to control what they are exposed to or who can communicate with them.

“I wouldn’t want the availability of insurance to make the company lazy or irresponsible in its contribution to online safety,” he says. “While we can’t completely stop cyberbullying from happening to ourselves or our kids, we have a certain agency there. “

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