Cyberbullying requires co-orinated effort

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Whether government is moving too slow or at an acceptable pace in implementing the recommendations of a cyberbullying task force, it’s imperative for the province to move forward with those recommendations knowing full well the longer it waits the higher the toll will be for those who are the targets of bullying in whatever form.

Last year, Dalhousie law professor Wayne MacKay chaired a provincial task force that made 85 recommendations. While he says the province is taking the issue seriously, he is questioning why it’s taking so long to implement those recommendations.

MacKay’s task force was established nearly two years ago after a pair of high-profile suicides made government stand up and take notice of the issue of cyberbullying.

Now a year after making his report, MacKay is concerned with the pace, saying he’s particularly concerned that the province’s anti-bullying co-ordinator is taking too much time collecting information and not enough time focusing on what new anti-bullying programs can be used in schools.

The Dalhousie professor believes schools are the frontlines when it comes to combatting cyberbullying. He said a lot of young people really don’t know what’s appropriate when it comes to online activity and he sees the education system playing a major role in educating students and raising awareness about the proper use of the Internet and what the price is when cyberspace is used inappropriately.

Education Minister Ramona Jennex said her department is not dragging its feet and that the anti-bullying co-ordinator is collecting information on the best programs. She also said teachers already have the resources that teach young people how to be safe on the Internet.

All things considered we should not expect the task force’s recommendations, or the co-ordinator’s actions, to be a panacea for bullying whether face to face or on the world wide web. Bullying in all its forms has been around since the first men and women walked this planet. We cannot expect new rules, laws and regulations are going to stop it. We also can’t expect education or awareness programs alone to be the answer.

It’s going to take a co-ordinated effort among all stakeholders to address the issue. Educators, administrators, parents, police and young people themselves all have a role to play and no one can work in a bubble isolated from others.

When MacKay’s task force issued its report and the province hired its anti-bullying co-ordinator there was real hope that real steps were being taken to address an age-old issue. Now is not the time to lose the momentum because too many people are depending on a change in attitudes.

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