Jealousy. Passion. Betrayal. No, not the latest television drama, but high school. For many the high school experience comes with social pressures and obligations to fit in and belong, and sadly this can lead to exclusion and isolation of some students. At some point we all probably said something in our teen years in the heat of the moment that we wish we could take back, but today’s teens face the added burden that if they convey those statements on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, their words could be around for a lot longer than just the heat of the moment.
It doesn’t take much searching of the news to see stories of teens using social media sites like Facebook to transfer the cruelty of high school hallways into the online world. Teens that make fun of a student or tease them may not just be responsible for hurt feelings, but if they’re publishing bullying or teasing posts online or revealing private information about another teen in a public forum, whether a blog, to their Facebook profile or other social space, they may be exposing you and your insurance policy to a claim.
Are my kids covered under my insurance?
Generally speaking, any coverage you have through your homeowners or renters insurance policy also provides coverage to other residents of the household, including your teenage children. Standard homeowners and renters policies include liability protection for bodily injury or property damage, which would pay for the costs to cover medical bills or repair/replacement costs if your child injured a friend in a pick-up basketball game or if they were at a friend’s house and accidentally spilled soda on a $13,000 oriental rug, subject you your policy’s deductible.
But what if your son or daughter were to post rumors about other teens online that implied drug use, promiscuity, or other information that could damage that person’s reputation? With college admissions offices and employers beginning to look up applicants on social networking sites, rumors and gossip have the very serious potential to damage someone’s ability to get into the college of their choice, or find a job. Or if your son or daughter “outs” another teen’s sexual orientation, as in the case of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, there’s the potential that someone could pursue legal action under a type of defamation known as publication of private facts. Interestingly, a standard homeowners or renters policy would not cover these instances.
So what can you do?
Get a Personal Injury Endorsement
In order to cover claims from that kind of situation, homeowners and renters policies must have what is called an endorsement- extra language that is inserted into the policy to expand coverage- in order to have your liability protection extended to cover “personal injury.” A Trusted Choice ® Independent Insurance Agent should be able to tell you if your current insurance policy already has this personal injury endorsement by reviewing it, and if it doesn’t, they would be able to help you get one. You may be surprised to find that this expanded coverage may not cost you much additional premium. A personal injury endorsement will pay the costs up to the limits of your policy to defend you, pay a judgment or settle a case when legal action is brought against you or your children for defamation.
Make sure that if you’re a parent, you talk to your children about social media, how they use it and what’s expected of them. It’s critical that they understand how their use of social media could impact your insurance. Some parents choose to actively monitor their children’s use of social media, and there are various software programs available to assist those who want to closely monitor what their children do in social spaces for parents who want access to their children’s profiles. No matter what you choose to do, we should all encourage each other to treat others with respect.
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