Friday, 15 September 2017

Cyber bullying: a problem requiring a radical solution
Bullying has probably been with us from the time when humans began communicating with one another by hand signals. Now that we are living in the age of technology, we are faced with a new form of bullying. It is called cyber-bullying.

That kind of bullying is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the technology of the day. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by
 a minor against another minor and it can also include a minor against a teacher or principal.

Cyber-bullying picks up where schoolyard harassment leaves off. Cyber-bullies rely on technologies, such as e-mail, cell phones, text messaging, instant messaging and websites or blogs, to repeatedly and aggressively torment their victims, whether it’s an individual or a
 group. There have been incidents when children have killed their abusers and/or have committed suicide after having been involved in a cyber-bullying incident. There have been occasions when schools tried to get involved by disciplining the student for cyber-bullying that took place off-campus and outside of school hours and then have been sued by the bully’s parents because the schools supposedly exceeded their authority and violated the student's rights to free speech. In other words, this problem covers all areas of human endeavors, from criminality to stupidity and everything in  between.
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The issue as to whether or not a student transmits offensive messages off school property is a matter that has to be dealt with. For example, do school authorities have jurisdiction over the conduct of their students when they are no longer on school property? 

 In Ontario, Canada, there is legislation that permits the education authorities to discipline its students who commit cyber-bullying offences off school property. There is a very good reason for this. The victims are for the most part, either students or school staff and as such, they are all part of the school community. The school community goes beyond the borders of the school property.

It has been suggested in some communities that students should be prohibited from bringing their cell phones into school. One of the reasons is that students are using them when they should be paying more attention to their work in their classes. This won’t stop cyber-bullying since that kind of conduct can emanate from anywhere and anytime. However, if a cyber-bully is found out, he or she should be prohibited from bringing a cell-phone onto school property. That won’t necessarily stop the offender from sending further offensive messages off school property but it will get the message back to this bully that there are consequences for cyberbullying.

Studies have shown that thirty-four per cent of students in Grades 7 to 11 report that they had been bullied within the current school year. Among those, 27 per cent say they had been bullied over the Internet. For the purpose of this article, it is these victims I am writing about, albeit it is conceivable that the victimization of victims will extend to even younger children as more of them are given cell phones and have access to the Internet. Few cyber-bullying campaigns can succeed without the complacency and the help of other children. Unfortunately, children nowadays look to any source for amusement and like gossips; they pass the cyber-bullying messages they receive onto others until the message is on the lips of hundreds of the victim’s fellow students. ……………………. ………………………………….

Built-in digital cameras in cell phones are adding a new dimension to the problem. In one case, a student used a camera-enabled cell phone to take a photo of an overweight classmate in the shower after gym. The picture was distributed throughout the school e-mail list within minutes. There are schools in which the gym teachers confiscate the cell phones of the students taking gym and return them after the students leave the gym area. There have been other pictures of naked student girls distributed via camera-enabled cell phones to fellow students by boyfriends who surreptitiously took the pictures of their sexual encounters with their female partners.

In Toronto, there was an incident in which a student got a hold of a female teacher’s boyfriend’s e-mail address and sent a message to the boyfriend in the teacher’s name purportedly confessing to cheating on him. Her fiancée broke off their engagement.

Cyber-bullying can also affect the abuser’s ethical behaviour because it doesn’t provide tangible feedback about the consequences of actions on others. This lack of feedback minimizes feelings of empathy or remorse. Young people say things online that they would never say face-to-face because they feel removed from the action and the person at the receiving end.

In April 2007, the Education Minister of the Province of Ontario in Canada proposed changes to Ontario's Education Act that are designed to stop students from posting online attacks against other students or teachers. The revamped Act will add cyberbullying to the list of offences for which students can be suspended or expelled from school. Principals can suspend but only the local Board of Education can expel a student. Of course, it is not intended that such offenders be automatically suspended or expelled since defamation of character is not always black and white. There are varying degrees of grey to consider also. Obviously, mitigating factors also have to be taken into account. ………………………….

The parents of those students that are expelled; do have the option of applying to another school for permission to enroll their children in the other school and if their request is refused, there is a school in Toronto that is especially created for expelled children who were previously enrolled in a Toronto school. Unfortunately, this won’t help children in rural areas or small towns where there is only one school. This is why expulsion of a student should only be used as a sanction when there is no other way of curbing the offending student’s bullying conduct and the continued bullying-conduct puts
the well-being of other students at risk.
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There is of course the difficulty of tracing the source of the cyber-bullying attack. Like gossiping, it is often difficult to find its source. It is unfortunate indeed that as of this present era we are in, tracing sources of cyber-bullying attacks are almost impossible. Mobile phones have proven harder to trace over recent years, but that is changing however. The Federal Communications Commission in the United States had ordered that, by 2006, all cell-phone networks in the United States were to have feature location-tracking technology, ostensibly to assist 911 operators. As a result, many new mobiles now come equipped with chips that link them into the Global Positioning Satellite system. Triangulation using coordinates from adjacent cellphone towers is another effective tracing technique. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that cell phones manufactured in other countries and used in other countries can be traced. Further, they can only be traced when they are switched on.

In any case, even if a cell-phone call is traced, a court order would be required to get access to the user’s cell phone records and even if that were to happen, how can anyone be sure that the cyber-bullying phone message in a particular cell phone’s records was the original one that was sent out? It could have been simply passed on to another person after the owner of the cell-phone received it. Trying to trace all the cell-phones to find the cyber-bully that sent the original offensive message is cost and time-prohibitive. 
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It may be possible to find the source of an offensive message if the victim has trouble with a particular student at school. A court order that grants authority to examine cell phone records may bring results but even if they discover who was the originator of the offensive message, that doesn’t necessarily solve the victim’s problem. You can’t erase what the recipients of the offensive message heard or saw anymore that you can un-ring a bell.

Young people should be aware that some forms of online bullying could be considered criminal acts. For example, under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is a crime to communicate with others if your communication causes them to have fear for their own safety or the safety of members of their family or property.

It's also a crime to publish a “defamatory libel”—writing  something that is designed to insult a person or likely to injure a person's reputation by exposing him or her to hatred, contempt or ridicule. In Canada, a cyber bully may also be violating the  Canadian Human Rights Act, if he or she spreads hate or discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or disability.

I should add however, that merely using the cell phone to communicate by voice with one person at a time isn’t against the law even if the person is using insulting language when speaking ill of another person anymore than doing so face-to-face privately providing what is communicated is the truth.

It has been often said that parents should talk to their children about the places they go online and the activities that they are involved in. That is a good thing to do but many parents can’t communicate with their children simply because their children refuse to communicate with them. How can such a parent hope to discover if his or her child is using his or her cellular phone for cyber-bullying purposes if the child simply ignores his or her parents?

There is no doubt in my mind that the problem of bullying in any manner must be approached at an early age. I am talking about bullying by children as young as five and six. Schools should teach children about the dangers of bullying and how it hurts innocent people of any age. The lessons being taught should include how victims feel when they are the victims of bullying.

I believe that there is one way of solving this problem. In the province of Ontario in Canada, we have a law that permits victims of crimes committed by young people, to sue the parents of these young thugs for an amount not exceeding ten thousand Canadian dollars. When the parents of these cyber-thugs have to pay out that kind of money for the actions of their offspring, the chances of these young thugs continuing to have possession of cell phones or computers connected to the Internet in their possession is highly unlikely. Further, the child can also be sued and when he or she has left school. that teenager will feel the pain of having 20% of his or her wages garnisheed. That threat should be a strong incentive to cease cyber-bullying.

I think I can speak for people my age when I say that when we went to school, the way we would sometimes communicate with our friends after school was to go to their homes. Nowadays, young people stay in their own homes and communicate with their friends via e-mail, or by publishing their thoughts in Facebook or YouTube or their blogs or by text messaging with their cellular phones. This non-stop addictive social interacting has bled into our lives like some mutant virus. True, it is a means of improving their communication skills but I can’t help but wonder at what cost.

In my day, if we gossiped directly with others, we were careful as to what it was that we said, lest it come back to haunt us later. Nowadays, young people can say what they want to say about others and do it in the Internet or by text messaging via their cellular phones with the knowledge that what they say can’t be traced directly back to them unless it’s on their blog or they sign off using their real name. This is the conundrum we are all facing, especially young people.

I believe that the only way this problem can be solved is through technology. We have to find a way that we can trace the origins of offensive calls and once that has been achieved, we can then deal with the cyber-bullies more effectively. However, the root problem is bullying and a greater effort has to be undertaken by parents and teachers alike to solve that worldwide problem that is currently raging everywhere as an ever-spreading virus that is infesting a large segment of our children, both as bullies and victims alike. Now is the time to put  and end to this terrible activity that is becoming a world-wide plague in our schools. 

As I see it, if the victim doesn’t commit suicide, then the first offence of the cyber offender should be a suspension from school for two weeks. If he or she does it again, then the next suspension should be for a month. If he or she does it a third time, the offender should be expelled from the school and criminal charges should be laid against the third-time offender.

Further, each time the cyber offender offends, a letter should be mailed to the offender’s parents by registered mail. The second letter should advise the parents that their child will be expelled if it happens once more and the victim will be encouraged to sue the parents and the offender for the crimes that their child committed—the amount of the claim depending on the degree of the suffering the victim went through.  

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