Ambrose talks cyber-bullying
It's a crime, she says, and you could do time
Wednesday, Mar 19, 2014 06:00 am
Needhelpnow.ca: features guides on how to cope with and report online harassment.
Getcybersafe.gc.ca: information for parents and teens on how to spot and prevent cyber-bullying
Kids Help Phone: 24/7 anonymous counselling, either at 1-800-668-6868 or kidshelphone.ca.
Erika Sabourin knows firsthand what it means to be bullied.
The Grade 11 student at Sturgeon Composite said she’s had to change schools because of it, and came close to taking her own life.
“I’ve been called a whore, a slut,” she said, as well as other names. “I’ve been shoved into lockers … I was once told by a student, ‘You have no point on this world, you should just give up.’”
Sabourin said she knew of a local girl who recently took her own life because of online and offline bullying. “She had so much potential, and now she can’t see that (happen),” she said, passionately.
Sabourin was the first student to talk one-on-one with federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose when the minister dropped by Sturgeon Composite High School Thursday to talk about cyber-bullying.
Ambrose was there to talk about Bill C-13, which is currently before the House of Commons. Dubbed the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, the bill, if passed, would make the transmission of sexually explicit images of someone without that person’s consent – a common form of cyber-bullying – a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.
“This is not a game,” Ambrose told the gym-load of students. “If it gets serious enough, you can actually go to jail.”
Bullying has changed a lot since the days when she was a kid, Ambrose said. “When I was a kid, bullying was just pushing each other around in the playground.” Now, it’s online and anonymous, which makes it easier than ever.
“Every school in North America has it,” she continued, and it’s incredibly destructive. The consequences can range from depression to suicide in its victims. Bill C-13 was prompted in part by the high-profile suicides of Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, both of who were bullied and exploited online.
“It shouldn’t be a normal part of growing up,” Ambrose said. “Frankly, nobody deserves this.”
Sabourin said today’s students are always online, which means cyber-bullies are always around.
Cyber-bullying is also harder for teachers to spot than physical bullying, as much of it happens in private forums or chats, said vice-principal Ron Pollmann. “We have to rely on students to come to us and tell us what’s happened.”
The federal government is now running an ad campaign about cyber-bullying, Ambrose said. The ad features a young man who is arrested for forwarding an intimate picture of his girlfriend.
“If you are being cyber-bullied, you are not alone,” she told the students. She encouraged students to speak out against bullying and to make use of the resources at websites such as Stop Hating Online and Needhelpnow.ca.
Sabourin said Bill C-13 was a helpful, if flawed, first step to addressing bullying. “Some students do deserved to be charged,” she said, but many don’t want to talk about bullying openly.
MPs and MLAs should invite victims to speak before them to get a first-hand look at the impacts of bullying, Sabourin said.
Teachers, meanwhile, need to assert their influence as teachers to discipline bullies and actively seek out their victims, she continued. “Stop being friends (with students) and act like a teacher and an adult.”
Sabourin said she is making friends now that she’s switched schools and actually enjoys going to school. She also reaches out to help other victims of bullying whenever she can.
“I always tell students, ‘It does get better.’”