After 15 year-old Amanda Todd from British Columbia took her life two weeks ago because of the constant cyber-bullying she was exposed to over a long period of time, some Canadian provinces have been discussing new legislation that might have to be implemented to stop cyber-bullying all together.
According to The Calgary Herald, Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson is hoping to make some changes to the Education Act partly in light of the recent tragedy. The legislation will make it an obligation for school boards “to offer a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe environment.”
In an interview for the Montreal Gazette, Premier of British Columbia Christy Clark said that enforcing more laws and being stricter on cyber-bullying will be a strong statement about where Canada stands as a society.
“I think we should have a national conversation about whether or not we should criminalize cyber-bullying,” said Clark.
The national media focus has been on Todd’s story of cyber-bullying and sexual harassment since she died on Oct. 10, leaving a Youtube video that went viral soon after. Photos of Todd half-naked were posted by a stalker on a false Facebook account which led to much of the harassment from her peers and an alleged assault.
According to CBC, a concerned citizen had contacted cybertip.ca last November to report images of Todd that were online. The report was later passed to law enforcement as well as child welfare.
Here is the problem: if these groups and organizations were contacted, why wasn’t anything done then? Why does everyone start to pay attention only once everything is said and done?
Now that Canadian politicians feel motivated to do something about it, here’s some things they should do: have support groups in schools where young people can come and talk about how they feel, encourage parents and teachers to get involved, and raise more awareness about the issues with public campaigns.
If a student is being bullied, we need to have services available at schools for people to go and get help. Parents or guardians have a responsibility to get involved with an anti-bullying program or advise a teacher at school if they know their child is a victim of bullying.
Implementing more overarching laws isn’t guaranteed to produce positive results. We need more change on a local level within schools and communities.
Many teens hide behind the Internet to bully others anonymously and social networks give these bullies the opportunities to do so. I believe social networks like Facebook and Twitter should be a lot more accountable and socially responsible. Why did Facebook allow this blatant attack and breach of privacy on a minor to appear on the site? Better yet, why did no one report the inappropriate images? There is a “report” button for this very purpose at the bottom of each photo and though no information has yet been released from Facebook, it is hard to believe that Todd herself would not have tried that alternative to get the photos taken down.
Even with new legislation, there will never be a concrete end to cyber-bullying as long as bystanders and bullies continue. There will always be someone in your ear saying negative things about you. The problem will only end once the Internet is controlled in a way which does not allow these things to happen, and when people stop standing idly by as more and more young people fall victim to this awful trend.
Graphic by Jennifer Kwan