Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of Free The Children and Me to We, seek solutions to significant social problems. In this column, they explore an issue, solicit informed opinions or new ideas from experts, and then throw open the discussion to Globe readers.
The tragic suicide death of 15-year-old Amanda Todd last week in Port Coquitlam, B.C., has incited a national discussion about the dangers of “cyber-bullying,” which over the past decade has escalated the problem of teen taunting and cruelty to a sadly frequent part of adolescent life.
Online bullying is a uniquely difficult challenge because of the easy anonymity of attacks, and how deeply ingrained social media has become in teens’ daily interactions.
So despite the countless anti-bullying programs and even more caring adults in our schools and communities willing to help, Amanda’s heartbreaking story reminds us that there’s more we must do.
This week’s question: How do we stop cyber-bullying?
We asked three experts for their thoughts on this issue and want to hear from you in the comments section of this article.
This week’s experts:
Greg Rogers, course director at the faculty of education at York University and a member of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB)
The Internet lacks the restraint and accountability demanded of face-to-face encounters, and it has helped to shape the culture of this generation of teens. It has made us discarnate to one another. We counter that effect, as [Canadian Catholic philosopher and humanitarian] Jean Vanier said, by creating communities of inclusion, because the opposite of bullying is belonging.
The culture of every classroom, every school and every community must reflect this message. That can begin with student leaders, who are on the front line of what happens in our schools. Working in partnership with them, as with our program that trains leaders to welcome grade nine students into the school community, is the most effective way I have seen schools develop a culture of inclusion and belonging.
Molly Burke, anti-bullying advocate and speaker
My advice [for people being bullied] is first, don’t be afraid to ask for help, because you need it. Go to people you trust but not to the Internet, which is a dangerous place to ask for help because chances are you’ll get a lot more negativity.
Second, don’t run. I kept changing schools and creating new [social media] accounts, but it just got worse — it was new people doing the same thing, and I was the same person dealing with the same problem because I didn’t change the root of why it was happening. Now I don’t accept people in my life until I get to know them, I deleted everyone from my social media who weren’t true friends, and I stopped posting when I was feeling emotional – and my life has changed for the better.
Marne Levine, vice president global public policy at Facebook
Bullying in any form – from the school playground to online – is unacceptable. The most vital part of addressing this issue is to create a culture of accountability, where people treat each other with kindness and respect, and stand up for each other .
At Facebook, we’ve created policies, programs and tools to foster safety, accountability and trust. This starts with our “real name culture.” We've built a network based on authentic identity. We also believe that one of the most powerful safety features of social networks is social reporting. Nearly every piece of content on Facebook has a report link. We review all reported content, remove it if it violates our policies and escalate reports to law enforcement where appropriate.
Facebook's Family Safety Centre provides resources that enable parents and teachers to talk to young people about online safety and good digital citizenship.
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