Although bullying affect everyone at every age, a lot of it seems to start within grade school. It is statistically stated that 98% of Canadian youth access and use, compared to 93% of their American counterparts, the Internet and communication technologies daily and roughly 88% use their cell phone for the text messaging and social media to interact with friends and family as well as doing self-exploration along with learning (Mishna, et. al., 2012). However, it is becoming a new and innovated ground to bully and threaten individual’s who are viewed as different and since it is open 24 hours a day, such bullying can be constant leaving no room for the victims to breath or space to be away from their tormentor’s (Mishna, et. al., 2012).
Cyber – bullying is a major concern within Canada society. Cyber – bullying is broadly defined as general bullying to repeatedly harm through harassment, violence, sexual violence, and threats an individual’s self – esteem through the internet and social media. Specifically, this means sending mean or threatening emails and text messages, using social media and other internet outlets to spread any types of gossips, rumour’s or secrets that will harm someone’s reputations, hacking into other people’s emails or social media profile to tarnish an individual’s character through sending harmful messages to the individual’s contacts stating that the victim is a racist or enjoys lots of sex and more, using websites or blogs to post cartoons and comments to ridicule or be negative about a person, posting horrible or embarrassing photos of others on social media and emails, and attacking or ignoring the victim directly online (PREVNet, 2015). Unlike traditional bullying that targeted children who were within the categories of being “…overweight, physically weak, disabled, or unpopular who are often targeted…[currently]…all students are potential victims of cyber bullying aimed at inflicting unwarranted hurt and embarrassment on unsuspecting victims.” (Dılmaç, 2009).
The effects of cyber-bullying can expand to deducing to harmful effects on an individual’s emotions, his or her mental state, and how to function “normally” in a social setting. Cyberbullying is of growing concern to parents, police, educators and society because of its increased prevalence and the fact that it has been implicated as a factor in many psychology and emotional concerns like teen suicide. Other health concerns that come out of cyberbullying can be viewed whether the victim goes such as schools, home and other commonplaces. Such health symptoms are aggressive behavior, that can be done many times over however long a duration, which can affect any age, gender and group of people (Deschanp & McNutt, 2016; Dılmaç, 2009). It can also affect the academic performance to uncertain feelings when going at home or school, absenteeism, psychological problems such as loneliness, depression, anxiety, school phobias, and maladaptive behaviours (aggression, smoking, drinking, shop-lifting) and more (Dılmaç, 2009; Deschanp & McNutt, 2016).
For universities, like the University of Ottawa, there is no direct policy on (cyber)bullying, while most of their policies focus on sexual violence, discrimination, and harassment and connect to the Ontario Human Rights Code (n.d.). Many lower levels of schools have policies and regulations to ensure that bullying happens as little as possible. There is concerns, however, of such school policies, regulations and codes of conduct because of the blurred lines with “cyber – bullying” which ranges from where it takes place (on campus versus off) to freedom of expression due to how well individual’s can express themselves on social media and other online communication forms resulting to the need for policies to balance the two and maybe need to be specific as to what is offensive-harmful (Faucher et. al., 2014). Additionally, there are concerns that the policies are too vague or there are no regulations placed within the academic environment to allow for some form of protection or where to go for help if something happens.
There are some governmental protection. Federally, Bill C – 13, officially known as An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act (Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act), and has stated new changes to the Criminal Code of Canada to which any infringement of telecommunications can be include to the actions of cyberbullying and other cyberspace criminal activities along with the non-consent distribution of intimate image that can lead to 6 months of imprisonment or $5000 in fine (Nicols & Valianquet, 2013). Yet, Bill C – 13 highly emphasizes child pornography, section 163.1, which now includes many teens photos they take of themselves and sharing with others means no one consents that will lead to a minimum sentencing while 162.1 says that those over 18 need to consent (Nicols & Valianquet, 2013).
Provincially, there have been some established laws. This can be seen with Nova Scotia, since Rehtah Parson’s national public suicide in 2013, who has established the Cyber-Safety Act to protect victims and holding bullies responsible, yet, if the bullies are minors, then the parent’s/legal guardians are held responsible; the law was struck down due to infringing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, yet, it is still viewed that anything said with cyberbullying should be resented to the police (CBC New, 2013; CYBERSCAN, n.d.). For Alberta, the Albertan government just has a website that links to concerns with general bullying, cyberbullying, homo- and trans- phobic bullying along with PREVNet health facts and a bullying helpline along with other sources to deal with cyberbuylling (2016). Yet, there is a need for more change in regulations, especially the need(s) for more action and implementation within society along with a collaboration between schools, parents, help and health clinics as well as governments to come together to find ways to decrease bullying within the technological setting.
In conclusion, as what Dalhousie University Professor Wayne MacKay stated that even with the cyberbullying laws, policies and more, we need to be cautious and have to ensure that three components are looked into “…education, changing the laws and preventing cyberbullying by teaching young people about how to be responsible online citizens…[because in reality]…”Any study looking at cyberbullying suggests you can’t simply demonize the bullies and say they should be sent off to some island somewhere and they’re a separate species,”…bystanders become the bullies, sometimes the victims become the bullies, the line between all of it is quite complicated and that’s one of the reasons in the report — and the government has followed through on some of this — we’ve stressed restorative approaches where possible.” (CBC New, 2013).
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