Bullying thrives through technology
Cases of cyber-bullying have increased substantially
Article: Brady Knight – Contributor
Less than a month ago, Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay announced the federal government would introduce new legislation to fight cyber-bulling during the fall session of parliament. However, many argue legislation alone is not enough to solve the problem. Students today have more technology than ever at their disposal. Almost everybody has a cell phone – even kids in elementary school – and most use social networking sites, particularly Facebook.
But although this technology has its benefits, it also provides a platform for bullying. While bullying, or even cyber-bullying is nothing new to schools, the frequency with which it has taken the national spotlight in Canada has increased substantially.
A prominent list of cyber-bullying victims has been steadily growing. Included are names such as Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons, and more recently Todd Loik, who have all committed suicide in the last 12 months.
“I think what we need is more education,” said Libby Robertson, a grade 12 student at Balfour Collegiate. “Students [need] to know what the problem is, and what the consequences are, and things like that. I don’t think students are afraid of federal government laws.”
That sentiment is echoed by Brian Trainor, a retired Sergeant with the Saskatoon Police Force, and a recognized educator on cyber-bullying. He maintains new legislation is not required in order to prosecute bullies.
[pullquote]“Students [need] to know what the problem is, and what the consequences are, and things like that. I don’t think students are afraid of federal government laws.” [/pullquote]
“I’m kind of torn a bit. I agree with [MacKay], but I don’t know if it’s necessary, because the laws are already in place with the Criminal Code. Assault and harassment and threats and stalking – that’s all in place,” he said. “The laws are there, the police just have to apply them in the cases that warrant it.”
Trainor believes the manner in which police approach bullying behaviour needs to be modified as well.
“I think the problem lies in old-school thinking within the police departments, that ‘ah that’s a kid’s thing, it’s not a criminal thing.’ Well that’s a bunch of nonsense.”
Experts agree cyber-bullying is on the rise. A study released last year looked at cases involving cyber-bullying in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Among the 41 cases examined by the team lead by Dr. John LeBlanc of Dalhousie University, there have been at least five per year since 2008. That number jumped to 13 in 2011. All of the victims were between 13 and 18 years of age.
Robertson feels there is not enough conversation around the topic of bullying among teens, noting once students leave school grounds, demeanours change in an instant.
“When you go home and when you get on the screen, it feels like you’re a different person, and that you’re kind of outside the problem,” she said.
A number of provinces have introduced anti-bullying legislation over the past year. Ontario implemented Bill 13 in late 2012, and Nova Scotia followed suit this August.
Manitoba has also passed provincial legislation, with Bill 18 finally proclaimed on Oct. 10. The bill faced strong opposition from religious institutions due to its requirement of schools to accommodate specific anti-bullying student groups, including gay-straight alliances.