Sticks and stones will break your bones… well you know the rest. But who said words don’t hurt? Certainly no kid who’s ever been taunted, badgered, demeaned, or belittled. When that kid is bullied to the point where their life is not worth living, the kid isn’t going to just ‘ignore it’.
But right now, ignoring it is often all we can do. If you punch someone, you get punished. But if you cyber-bully a classmate for months on end, nothing happens to you. If they can’t take it anymore, and kill themselves, nothing happens to you. This. Is. Not. OK.
The federal government’s new anti-bullying bill outlaws the distribution of intimate pictures without consent. That’s great, but it’s only one small aspect of a much larger problem.
To start, we need to realize that words hurt as much, or more, than sticks and stones. For most people, the only legal defence against an online bully is civil law; which requires hiring a lawyer and draining your bank account. If online bullying were tackled by strong and clear amendments to the Criminal Code, then the responsibility for action shifts from the victim to the police. In most cases a simple call to a bully’s home from the friendly neighbourhood RCMP will be all that’s needed to end the problem.
So what can teenagers do? For one, they can talk about it. Nothing changes without people making a fuss. E-mail your MP, giving your solution to cyberbullying. Send screenshots of harassing comments every time you see them, and most of all, make them realize that this is a crucial issue to many youth who will reach voting age just in time for the next election. At the very least, they can count on at least one semi-ranty email from a certain teenage girl.