11/07/2014 06:52 EST | Updated 01/07/2015 05:59 EST

Gaps in cyberbullying protocols, report finds

Gaps in protocols and policies in P.E.I.’s education and justice systems could lead to a tragedy, says a new report funded by the provincial Department of Justice.

“Having prevention strategies, early interventions and policies/regulations in place that address cyberbullying will serve PEI youth and support their health and well-being — and will perhaps save lives,” reads the report, which was prepared by Women’s Network PEI.

The report says a lack of consistency in policies for preventing cyberbullying has led to confusion for adults trying to deal with the issue.

While for most kids cyberbullying can be little more than an annoyance, in extreme cases the report found it has led Island children into depression, self-harm and alcohol abuse.

“Trauma is trauma, and it changes kids. It changes you fundamentally as a person. And trauma has an intense impact on us and it lasts throughout our lives,” said Michelle MacCallum of Women’s Network PEI.

“How do we protect them from those traumas, so that they don't end up having a lifelong legacy of scarring from it?”

The report includes information on current trends in the province, the potential effects of cyberbullying, and how victims can access support.

In a news release, Justice Minister Janice Sherry encouraged all Islanders — including parents, educators, youth workers and justice officials — to read the report and use it as a resource.

Calls and emails to the P.E.I. Department of Justice and emails to the English Language School Board with requests for interviews about the report were not returned.