Work is being done to combat cyberbullying

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After reading your Monday, Aug. 12 print edition of The Telegram, my heart goes out to all the victims of cyberbullying in Canada and throughout the world as well as their families, friends, teachers and principals.

I was particularly interested in your editorial page, which had three items related to cyberbullying. In each of these references, there was a strong emphasis on legislation to deal with cyberbullying.

There is a great debate going on in Canada about the need for legislation and whether the current Criminal Code of Canada has enough powers to deal with the problem of cyberbullying.

I suspect any laws concerning bullying and, in particular, cyberbullying, will eventually be tested in the Supreme Court of Canada.  Indeed, the Supreme Court of Canada has already dealt with one case of cyberbullying and it went in favour of the victim of cyberbullying (A.B. v Bragg Communications Inc., (2012).

What we really need are programs that deal with the issue of bullying before it increases in intensity. Research is now showing a clear link between the traditional types of bullying (social, verbal and physical) and cyberbullying. Bullying is now seen as a relationship problem — in other words, the way people treat one another in negative ways. Solutions to the problem of cyberbullying will eventually be brought back to the schools, since it is in the schools that most bullying originates.

We need to see cyberbullying as part of relationship problems among the stakeholders involved in the acts of bullying.

Research, including my own, shows that there are chronic bullies; these are bullies who employ all forms of bullying (social, verbal and physical) and who often target the same individual at school and often via cyberbullying outside of school. The targets of these types of behaviour are likely to suffer the most health-related problems, due to the constant pressure of having their self-esteem constantly under pressure. The targets are often uncertain as to how to protect themselves against such behaviour.

In reference to Patrick Butler’s recent column, “Time to act on cyberbullying,” I would have to disagree with his feeling that nothing is being done in Newfoundland and Labrador to deal with cyberbullying.

In fact, it is in my opinion that a lot of work is being done.

Firstly, for instance, the Department of Education is currently examining the safe and caring schools policy and parts of the School Act, 1997. The Department of Education also has a webpage dedicated to information dealing with bullying; this webpage is aimed at students, parents and educators.

In addition, the Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation has a link that is dedicated to dealing with the issue of bullying and cyberbullying; this site is similarly intended for students, parents and teachers.

Both the RNC and RCMP have units that are dedicated to issues of cybercrime which also includes instances of cyberbullying. Thus, it is clear to see that much is being done in the area of bullying,

and cyberbullying in particular. Perhaps there is a need to do a better job of informing the public about what is being done surrounding this issue.  

The area of cyberbullying is a particular interest of mine. I am  conducting research in this area as a part of my studies at Memorial University.

At the recent EDGE 2013 conference at  Memorial University, I gave a presentation entitled:  “Cyberbullies — Who are They and What Factors at Home and School are Associated with Cyberbullies: Findings from Research in Newfoundland and Labrador schools.”

Findings from this research are based on approximately 6,000 students in our province in grades 6, 9 and 12. It is my intention to bring my research to the public in order to increase public knowledge.

In closing, participants of this conference explored how to implement more socially just communities, identify signs, symptoms and solutions of bullying, and reduce harm to self and others.

Dealing with these issues will help us deal with cyberbullying from a proactive perspective. It is hoped that by exploring these issues we can arrive at solutions to the relationship problems that cause bullying, including cyberbullying.   

Yes, there is a significant amount of work being done in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Gerald J. White writes from St. John’s.

Organizations: Supreme Court of Canada, A.B. v Bragg Communications, Department of Education RCMP

Geographic location: Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Cashin Delaney
    August 27, 2013 - 12:29

    Gov't recognized ABE classes have limits of 12 per instructor, and 25 sq ft per student. These are adults, perhaps bullied as children, trying to advance their essential skills to better themselves. Put 12 per teacher, more space for grades 6,7,8, and we will likely see that a lot of these returning adults will make it through school the first time around, and bullying will be reduced. After all, what is the difference between a grasshopper, and a locust? MUN studies, legislation, conferences are all money. Better double up on teachers than create task forces to police twitter?