Rita-Clare LeBlanc had reached the darkest moment of her young life. The months of bullying at her high school had taken a toll and she decided to end her life and become yet another statistic of Nova Scotia's abysmal bullying record. She sat alone in her room and started to swallow her father's blood pressure pills. She was going to take as many as she could before passing out and dying. Fortunately, before the point of no return, her mother walked in and made her throw up the pills. She held her, cried with her, and together they vowed to do whatever it took to put Rita-Clare's promising life back together. Her story sounds so familiar by now.
Recently, I engaged in a bit of a Twitter-debate around Internet dangers and kids. Our children are making adult decisions online and it's argued that these protections should be the responsibility of social media companies. Those who oppose restrictions and protections argue that it is up to parents to teach children best judgement and to exercise common sense online. I think this is absolutely absurd.
Parents: Facebook is not in the business of raising my child, nor should you expect Facebook to raise yours. It is not the responsibility of Twitter to make sure my child behaves well online -- it is my responsibility to make sure my child behaves in any environment. If we want major change, it will not come from laws or banning people from websites; it will come from parents, communities, and schools to engage in dialogue and education to raise children who have an understanding of digital citizenship and accountability for their online and offline actions, because accountability and respect still matter.
Parents please continue to learn about the story attached to Amanda Todd and today do not hesitate to talk to your children about the new story of Rehtaeh Parsons. Talk to your children about mental health, talking about social media is the first step in educating your kids about social media safety and outline your expectations about how your children will utilise this powerful tool for communication.
There is no doubt that social media is contributing to great positive changes in our world. But we must not forget or ignore its dark side. Today, we have masses of information that are sent via instant messaging, tweeting, tumblr, YouTube. Speed is a priority, brevity is important. There are social implications that come with this technology. Among other things, we are losing accuracy and time for critical thinking. Tom Flanagan is a recent recipient of information fallout. Look how quickly he was judged and "dropped" by friends and peers. Is this our future: Fear of attacks on social media stifling different voices and difficult but necessary problem-solving?
People come to Facebook to connect with the people and things they care about. Bullying is certainly one of these issues. The Be Bold Stop Bullying campaign centres around an interactive social media pledge app that enables teens, parents and educators to make a personal commitment to help stop bullying and recruit their friends to join them.
It is widely believed Albertan Bill Belsey first coined the term "cyberbullying," a fusion of Sci-Fi writer William Gibson's word "cyberspace" and the offline term "bullying. We spoke to him about the biggest bullying myths, the best intervention strategies, the downside to proposed legislation that would criminalize cyberbullying.
I will never forget how excited I was to be invited to watch a movie with the popular boy I liked. I primped for hours. (I was, after all, a teenager grappling with my own new sexuality.) When I got there, he did not put on the movie we agreed to watch, but a porn film. I had never seen one before. He unzipped his pants, pushed and pulled at me. I cried the whole walk home. We don't talk honestly enough about what it's like being a teen girl, or what it can be like. If we did talk about it, what it was like for us, perhaps we wouldn't be so harsh on them. Perhaps we'd see their lives for the small and large violations they're often made up of; and what those violations do.