Cyber bullying is known to have some similar effects on victims as traditional bullying. Long term exposure to cyber bullying could lead to a decrease of a person’s self-concept, an increased depression/anxiety level and more absence from school (Hines, 2011). Over the years the cyber bullying has received a lot of attention from the media and administration in school settings. Although existing research suggests that new form of bullying have similar negative effects as traditional bullying, additional research is needed to determine the extent of the effects it has on the victims (Hass, 2001). According to Kiriakidis and Kavoura (2010), 42.5% of victims surveyed said they were frustrated after being cyber bullied, 27% said they felt sad, 40% said they felt angry, 26.5% said they were affected at home and 22.1% of victims said it affected them at school (Hass, 2001). Cyber bullying also make some victims feel hopeless and scared to go to school. A number of victims who get cyber bullied do nothing about it. It pushed some to stay offline more often and other reported it to their parents and siblings. The emotional damage of cyber bullying can be very severe and in some cases it makes victims to isolate themselves due to fear of being bullied again. Over 16,000 students miss school on a daily basis due to fear of bullies, and this diminishes their ability to learn at school (Mason, 2008). There have been cases where victims of cyber bullying have been besieged by chronic illness, suicidal thoughts, eating diasorders and some even ran away from home (Mason, 2008). The negative effects suffered from constant exposure to cyberbullying during school years may result in long term/chronic effects after the school years. Young adults who were former victims of cyber bullying tend to have poorer self esteem and show signs of depression when compared to peers who weren’t victimized (Mason, 2008). Research suggested that persistent cyber bullying at an early age leaves a number of scars that could be carried into adulthood. Hence, it is necessary to control/legislate cyber bullying at schools to help prevent the long and short term negative effects it could have on victims. The actual bullies may also suffer from some chronic negative effects that are related to cyber bullying. For instance, a number of adults who betrothed in anti-social activities later on in life were found to be bullies at school while younger (Mason, 2008). Accoding to Mason (2008), a survey revealed that sixty percent of boys who were bullies between grade six to grade nine have been convicted of one or more crimes by the age of twenty four, compared to twenty three percent of those who weren’t bullies between grade six to grade nine. Given the facts stated above, it is evident that both victims and buliies are at risk of developmental problems that could carry on into early adulthood and beyond (Mason, 2008).
Some existing research on the effects of cyberbullying rely on correlational research which lack standardized measures of measuring the distress that stems from cyber bullying. Therefore, it is important for a more standardized measure to be implemented in future research (Hines, 2011).
Age and Gender Differences
According to Mason (2008), Girls (58%) are more likely to be the targets of online harassment than boys (42%). Also girls were found to more likely experience distressing harassment than boys (68% compares to 32%). However, 50% of the bullies or harassers were males while only 35% were females. This finding is in contrast with a another study by Kowalski et al. (2005) that found that girls are twice as likely as boys to be victims and culprits of cyber bullying (Mason, 2008). Two different studies by Olweus (1993) found that females are more likely to experience social bullying than males who are more susceptible to physical and direct forms of bullying (Hines, 2011). Health and Human Development sustained a survey that contained a sample of 15,686 students. The results indicated that girls reported to be victims of verbal bullying such as sexual comments and rumours more often than boys (Hines, 2011). Patronizing an individual’s speech or looks was common among both sexes, along with negative comments about their race or religion (Hines, 2011). Cyber bullying is perceived to be more harmful to girls than it is to boys because adolescent girls perceive their social status to be of higher importance to their self-concept than adolescent boys do. Studies also reveal that the amount of girls that report bullying is higher than the amount of boys (Hines, 2011).
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Existing laws/bills Regulating Cyber bullying
In criminal Law, Cyber bullying can be addressed under “Defamatory Libel” or “Harassment”. Defamatory Libel is considered a crime under the criminal code (section 300 of criminal code) and is punishable for up to five years in prison (Canadian Bar Association, (CBA), 2012). It occurs when a matter is published without lawful justification and it is likely to injure the reputation of another person, exposing them to hate and ridicule. Harassment is considered a crime under the criminal code and can be punished for up to 10 years in prison (CBA, 2012). Harassment occurs when something a person says or does create fear for his or her safety and/or the safety of others. There are cases where the suspect might not have intentions of harassing others but if someone else feels threatened by their actions they could be charged. Back in 2009, The Canadian Liberal government introduced bill C-273 which made it to the second hearing but was not passed into a law. This will be further discussed later on in the paper.
In regards to cyber bullying, there are only two Canadian provinces have developed statues that addresses school bullying. Which are: The Ontario Education Act and the Manitoba Public school Act Part III (Stanton & Beran, 2009). Other provinces in Canada address issues related to bullying under their Workplace Acts. Even though it is not specifically designed for schools, these workplace acts do have legislations that govern or pertains to school bullying (Stanton & Beran, 2009).
Education Act (Ontario)
The Ontario Education Act speaks to misbehaviours that may presumably include bullying under section 306 (1), 306 (2) and 306 (3) (Stanton & Beran, 2009). Section 306 (1) instructs on mandatory suspension of individuals who commits one of six infractions while at school or while participating in school related activities. These infractions include expressing a threat to inflict serious bodily harm on other individuals, engaging in an act of vandalism that damages school properties, swearing at people in position of authority or a teacher, or partaking in another activity, under policy of the board, is one that calls for a mandatory suspension. Section 306 (2) describes the duration of mandatory suspensions, which could range from one to twenty days. Section 306 (3) outlines that teachers may suspend such individual or refer the issue to the principal (Stanton & Beran, 2009). Other section of the Ontario Education Act also touches on appropriate code of conduct while on school premises. Section 301 (2) discusses six main goals of the Code of Conduct. One goal is to ensure that all school members, especially those in authority positions, are treated with respect and dignity. The second goal is to promote responsible citizenship by encouraging appropriate participation in the civic life of school community. The third goal is to maintain an environment where conflict and differences will be addressed in a manner that is characterized by civility and respect. The fourth goal is to encourage the use non-violent means to resolve conflicts. The fifth goal is to promote the safety of the school members. Lastly, the sixth goal discourages the use of illegal drugs and alcohol (Education Act, section 301(2)) (Stanton & Beran, 2009).
Public School Act Part III (Manitoba)
The Manitoba Public School Act Part III has three different sections that are specific or relate to anti bullying policies. The first section is section 47.1 (1), codes of conduct and Emergency response plans. This section instructs school principals in alliance with school advisory committees to establish a code of conduct for pupils/staffs and an emergency response plan which is reviewed annually at bare minimum. Section 47.1 (2) further stated that the Code of Conduct should include five components. Frist, it must include a statement that pupils and the staffs will behave in a respectable manner and comply with the code (Stanton & Beran, 2009). Secondly, it must include a statement indicating that bullying, or abusing any person orally, physically, psychologically, sexually, in writing or by other means is unacceptable. Additionally, unreasonable discrimination on the basis of any characteristic set out in Subsection 9(2) of the Human rights code, as well as possessing, using or being under influence of Alcohol or illegal drugs at school is unacceptable (Stanton & Beran, 2009). The third component of the Code of Conduct requires that a statement regarding the intolerance of weapon possession and gang involvement should be included. The fourth component is a statement indicating pupils and staffs will abide by school policies and also adhere to appropriate use of electronic materials and the internet, including prohibition of accessing, uploading and/or distributing materials that the school has determined to be unacceptable. The fifth and last component of the code of conduct is a statement outlining the disciplinary consequences, with as much details as reasonably possible, of violating the code and it must also outline the process of appealing the disciplinary decisions. Furthermore, the code of conduct must meet all other regulatory requirements that are prescribed under The Education Administration Act (Stanton & Beran, 2009). Section 47.1(3), content of emergency of response plans, outlines the responsibility of schools to respond to threats that might be posed to them. The three sections list above indirectly touched upon the inappropriateness of bullying at schools by requiring a code of conducts, stating its content and finally, managing emergencies (Stanton & Beran, 2009).
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The Ontario Ministry of Education recently proposed changes to the Education act in attempted to stop cyber bullies from posting online attacks against fellow students and teachers (Stanton & Beran, 2009). The minister of education, Kathleen Wayne, explained in a press conference at Queens Park that cyber bullying has been added to the list of offences in the Education Act (Stanton & Beran, 2009). The amendments as proposed will implement reconciliatory programs to help re-integrate students back into the classrooms, and that there will be strong consequences for inappropriate behaviours. With the new amendment to the act, the zero tolerance provisions of the act will be eliminated. The elimination resulted from a complaint by the Ontario Human Rights Commission on behalf of students, claiming that the zero tolerance policy was having disproportionate impacts on students with disability and minority students. Even though the government has proposed such changes to the Education Act, Section 306(1) discussed above is still in place and applicable on the court of law. Hence, students can still receive mandatory suspension if they choose to violate the Code of Conduct as stated in the Act. During the press conference, the Minister of Education made it known that the government of Ontario allocates approximately over 20 million dollars a year to provide programs for expelled and suspended students. The funds were provided by the government to help develop training programs for both vice principals and principals to effectively discipline students in a non-punitive manner, with the intention of decreasing the amount of expulsion and suspensions. These amendments seem to recognize that punishments such as, expulsion and suspension do not deal with the source of cyber bullying. Therefore, more resources may be allocated in an attempt to resolve/control cyber bullying (Stanton & Beran, 2009).
In other provinces like Quebec and Saskatchewan, The Occupational Health and Safety Act speak to work place bullying but it can be extended to school jurisdictions. In Quebec, the Act classified bullying as psychological harassment. This can be defined as aggravating behaviour in the form of verbal comments, hostile or unwanted, actions or gestures that affect an employee’s psychological or physical integrity and that could result in harmful work environment for employees (Stanton & Beran, 2009). This act can be to bullying incidents at school because schools are also considered as occupational environments. In Saskatchewan, the Occupational Health and safety act was amended 2006 /2007, to include section 2(1b) which speaks to harassment. The amendment re-defined harass as any inappropriate conduct, action, comment, display or gesture by a person that either (I) race, colour, sex, creed, marital status, disability, family status, physical size or weight, nationality, ancestry, age, and place of origin, or (II) adversely affects workers’ psychological and/or physical well-being that the person knows or ought to know would cause intimidation or humiliation of the worker, or (III) Constitute a threat to the safety and health of other workers (Bill 66, 2007) (Stanton & Beran, 2009). Based on these amendments, it can be inferred that bullies who affect the psychological or physical well-being of other students or teachers by humiliating or intimidate them can be punished under the law or found guilty of a criminal offense (Stanton & Beran, 2009). Thus the Occupational Health and Safety Act in Quebec and Saskatchewan can be applicable to individuals who engage in bullying at school. Other provinces in Canada such as Alberta have specified safety and respect measures outlined in their school Act.
Bylaws governing bullying
According to Stanton and Beran (2009), Edmonton and Regina are the only two big cities in Canada with Bylaws that fines individuals for engaging in bullying. The town council of Rocky Mountain House recently passed an anti-bullying bylaw that targets youths, bystanders and adults (Stanton & Beran, 2009). Edmonton (Alberta) was the first big city in Canada to give authority to police officers to fine bullies a minimum of $250. Bylaw fines varies depending on the municipality and jurisdiction. The fines can range from 125 dollars in North Battleford to 1000 dollars for second offence in Rocky Mountain House (Stanton & Beran, 2009). According to the bylaws, bullying is perceived as behavious that threaten and intimidate others. The bylaws were implemented to prevent individuals from engaging in bullying and other harmful behaviours (like assault, harrassment and gand violence). Those who support the bylaws argue that the ability to fine those who intimidate, threathen or humiliate others will deter them and possibly make them abstain from the behaviour. In Regina, the Anti-Bullying and Public fighting bylaw is quite different from the bylaws in Edomonton. It outlines that bullying someone else in a public place or written through electronic devices is illegal. Moreover, recording videos or taking pictures of people fighting and posting online for the public to see is illegal. Bylaw fines in Regina is higher than in Edmonton; it ranges from $100 to $2000. The fines/tickets are issued to parents if the perpetrator is between the ages of 12 and 16. The Anti-Bullying and Public Fighting Bylaw is applicable to bullying incidents in both the community and online (cyber bullying), and as well as to physical fights (Stanton & Beran, 2009). This bylaw was implemented to help reduce bullying and the tolerance level for such behaviours. Bylaws give recognition to to psychological and emotional suffering of victims. The thought of having to pay a fine might also serves as a deterrent for some bullies (Stanton & Beran, 2009).
Interventions of Cyber bullying
In recent years researchers and policy makers have come up with a number of interventions and prevention methods for cyber bullying but some of these proposed interventions are not fully effective or have failed to deter the behaviour (cyber bullying). As such, bullying prevention programs that are incorporated into school curriculums specifically address cyber bullying instead of only traditional bullying. Moreover, Parents and educators should intervene in bullying incidents, because a failure to do so may negatively affect students’ ability to be successful and happy at school and at home (Hines, 2011). People in position of authority should work in a program/solution that provides the ability to block and monitor slanderous and malicious instant messages and filter online networking comments before they are posted. It should intelligently find threats, categorize them and take the appropriate action as pre-defined by the school or district policy. The program/solution should ensure that web protection is extended beyond anti-malware, URL filtering, and anti-spam, with integrated ability to scan all outbound and inbound contents and attachments by using granular content controls, such as objectionable content filtering (Hines, 2011). By filtering out or blocking harmful messages or comments, schools can reduce cyber bullying. It is important that the technology being used allows for clear definition and enforcement of acceptable content policies. Slanderous and harmful contents should be rerouted or quarantined. The best solution should be a unified one that enables access control to some websites, provide notification of policy violations, provide consolidated reporting for holistic visibility of cyber bullying actions, monitor webmail traffic, block offensive contents from being uploaded to websites, monitor email usage, and help identify the breaches through which students may try to bypass the system (Hines, 2011). It is evident that incorporation of cyber bullying laws is failing to keep up with the pace at which incidence of cyber bullying is rising. One may ask, if there are any precautionary methods that could be implemented to protect children before becoming victims of cyber bullying.
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