Focus on prevention and punishment

The recent tragic suicide of 15-year-old Amanda Todd should lead to concrete, preventative solutions to cyberbullying and harsher punishments for its perpetrators.

Todd, a teen from Port Coquitlam, B.C., had been bullied constantly both online and in person since grade seven. She struggled with depression and anxiety for much of her young adult life, moving schools and even cities to try to prevent the relentless bullying she faced. In any form, bullying is difficult to control. The Internet adds another dimension — users can do or say anything behind the cloak of anonymity that cyberspace provides.

This proved to be true with the man who chose to post photos of Todd topless online. The act is undeniably a crime — one that should be punished severely. Yet, because of the nature of the Internet, the measures that are in place to deal with such crimes are far too ambiguous.

In B.C., it’s left to the discretion of each individual school to punish cyberbullies — there are no overarching laws in place in the province or in Canada.

In the wake of Todd’s death, politicians, parents and teachers alike have all called for further action to better deal with bullies.

Community leaders should come up with conclusive, concrete and ultimately effective measures to take when dealing with these crimes in the future.

While punishing bullies for their actions is important, we should also be focusing on preventing these sorts of cases from happening in the first place.

Minors such as Todd oftentimes don’t realize how little privacy they have on the Internet and how quickly personal information can spread to unwanted sources. Warning and educating youth as early as elementary school can help reduce the risks they may face online.

However, the problem doesn’t only lie in the Internet. Todd was also fiercely bullied by her peers at school and had been beaten up by groups of girls from her community.

Ultimately, the group mentality behind bullying forms the root of the problem and should be stopped through the intervention of teachers, parents, and, if necessary, police authorities.

It’s extremely unfortunate that a story as tragic as Amanda’s is what it takes to trigger community leaders to come up with concrete strategies for dealing with bullying effectively. Hopefully, Todd’s death will further compel politicians, parents and other community leaders to continue working towards punishing bullies and protecting their victims.

— Journal Editorial Board



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