It is disheartening to think it takes the death of a teenager for legislation to be created. At the same time, I was very happy to read in Huffington Post Canada that the province of Nova Scotia is implementing cyberbullying legislation. Unfortunately, it is close to 3 weeks after a teenage girl committed suicide in Nova Scotia because of cyberbullying. The full article from April 12th about her experiences can be read here on SJS. Huffington Post Canada says:
Justice Minister Ross Landry outlined the provisions of the new Cyber-Safety Act, which includes a unique investigative unit dedicated to pursuing and penalizing so-called cyberbullies, while making parents liable for their child’s bullying, if necessary. “We will not allow cowards to make people’s lives miserable online,” Landry told a news conference at a high school in Halifax.
According to the article, a team of five investigators will be created and trained to look into cyberbullying complaints, with the goal of resolving the complaints informally.
Bob Purcell, executive director of public safety and security said if the bullying does not stop or cannot be resolved, a prevention order is an option for the investigators and this order will allow the investigators to seize tablets, computers and cell phones. Fines can be implemented up to $5,000.00, as well as prison time of up to six months, for one who does not comply with a protection order.
This is a great start to needed legislation which should be implemented Canada wide and world wide. It’s also a first step for needed change. The fast pace of society, easy access to the internet, and the rise of social media through Smart phones, android phones, tablets, Ipods, etc means yet another level of education, awareness and prevention are needed for the youth of today. This should begin at home with discussions between parents and youth. As using computers and smart boards within the classroom environment is becoming more commonplace this education could then be carried over into the classroom environment as part of anti-bullying programs, workshops, or as part of the curriculum.
The youth of today are exposed to modern technology from birth. I regularly witness 3, 4 and 5 year olds playing on Ipods and Smart phones. Older youth use social media instead of talking on the phone with friends. Photos are shared without thought and too much information is often put on Facebook and other social media. The youth of today need to learn that some things do not belong in the public domain. As we have all witnessed on social media, whether it is for a good cause with social justice and advocacy as motivation or tragedies that occur around the world, in minutes a phrase or photo is shared and before you know it, hundreds, thousands or millions have seen it.
In regards to a visit with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Rehtaeh Parsons mother stated on Facebook: “…the cruelty is out there…hiding behind the keyboard, the cell phone. We need a cultural shift in our attitude towards the treatment of other human beings.” Well said!
Written by Victoria Brewster, MSW
SJS Staff Writer in Canada
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