By Senator Mobina Jaffer : Hope was a thirteen year old girl who, like many girls her age, had a crush on a boy at her school. One day Hope decided to send a compromising photograph of herself to that boy as she desperately wanted him to notice her. Unfortunately for Hope, her text message was intercepted by another girl at her school who decided to send that photograph to her classmates. Not only was Hope suspended for sending the photo, she was also harassed by her classmates throughout the summer. Unfortunately, the bullying only got worse when school resumed that fall. One evening, when she could no longer endure the pain and torment, Hope decided to hang herself from a bedpost.
The sad reality is that there are many young people in Canada who are victims of cyber-bullying just like Hope. These young people often feel as though they have been left to fact these challenges alone.
On November 30, 2011, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights was given the mandate to examine and report upon the issue of cyberbullying in Canada with regard to Canada’s human rights obligations under Article 19 of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. Our committee is aware that the face of bullying has changed. For now, it has moved from classrooms and schoolyards and into our homes by way of the Internet. In addition to the social, verbal and physical abuse many children today are forced to endure cyberbullying which is yet another challenge.
Cyberbullying, as defined by the Montreal Police, is the posting of threatening or degrading messages about someone using words, images and it also includes harassment.Cyberbullying take place through emails, in chat rooms, discussion groups, web sites and through instant messaging.
This is a problem that many of our young people are facing. In fact, recent studies have indicated that 25 per cent of young net surfers say they have received hate messages about other people via email.
In fact, recent studies have indicated that 25 per cent of young net surfers say they have received hate messages about other people by email. Thirty-four per cent of nine to seventeen year olds say that they have been victims of bullying during the school year. Of these, 27 per cent were victims of cyberbullying. In fact, it has been estimated that Canadian high schools experience 282,000 incidents of bullying every month.
One of the main problems with cyber-bullying is that adults often have difficulty understanding the severity of the problem and the constant contact children have with the internet and with each other. As a parent and a grandparent, I have always spent much of my time and energy in ensuring that my children and my grandson succeed in reading, writing and arithmetic. However, after hearing several experts address our committee, I have realized that I was forgetting a very important life skill, on which all children need to learn in order to succeed in the world. That skill is relationships. Children need to be taught from a very young age values such as empathy, respect, tolerance, acceptance and diversity. By instilling these values in children from a young age they will be less likely to victimize their peers and engage in malicious and hurtful behaviour.
When dealing with the challenges surrounding cyber-bullying we must be proactive and stop the problem before it even begins. We need to make sure our children have the skills they require to develop strong and healthy relationships.
Together we can help our young people deal with these new challenges and let them know they are not alone.