My name is Tad Milmine and I am the President/Founder of "Bullying Ends Here". Since this program's creation in early October 2012, it has received several awards along with international recognition.
Having said that, the last couple months have taught me a lot about youth, bullying and the politics of it all. Before I elaborate, I feel it is important to state that I get asked daily about my thoughts or opinions on the government or the law. I do all that I can to steer clear from that, as all of this is beyond my control.
As I tell the youth, I am "just a guy named Tad" and I am not an expert or professional on this topic at all. Having reflected on this recently, I believe it is safe to say that I do know a lot about bullying however, directly from the source ... the youth.
Like you, I read articles and see video stories all of the time about people calling for change and demanding others "correct bullying". Like you, I also see the nay-sayers voicing their opposition on every attempt being tried. I just don't get this. I would ask those nay-sayers, what are YOU doing to help the cause? Do you lead by example? Are you reaching out to help youth? Are you donating to any causes that are trying to help?
Just this past week, the Canadian Government proposed new legislation when it comes to cyber-bullying. In my opinion, this is terrific. Again, in my opinion only, this is only one piece to the puzzle and NOT the solution.
Consider this scenario, one that plays out every day here in Canada.
A youth comes forward and states that they willingly gave a few friends a nude photo of themselves and that photo is now being circulated on a popular app called Askfm without their permission. (Askfm is an anonymous application for those that are unaware.)
What this proposed legislation does is sets out the first step ... determining if this is a crime. Assuming this legislation passes, then, yes, this would be considered a crime.
Step two is involving the police. This is where nothing changes. An investigation would have to start with determining who the person is that is distributing the photos. Askfm is a Latvian based app and has NO obligation to follow Canadian Law. So the police officer makes a request to them for information on who the original sender was. This might be in the form of asking for the phone number, IMEI number (phone serial number) or IP address.
Askfm, having no obligation to follow through simply ignores this request. So now what?
The nay-sayers might suggest this new legislation will have police scooping up phones and looking to see what is on them. Absolutely NOT true. This is fear-mongering. The reality is that police would still need a production order or a warrant to do this. This is the same procedure as it is currently.
Without the information being provided by Askfm, there are few options available shy of speaking to all those involved directly. Even then, not everyone is truthful. Yes there are back channels that might help determine the information required by police but these channels are often times not court admissible therefore not helpful in holding those responsible accountable.
Scenario two is attempting to determine who set up a fake Facebook profile. Again, the police investigate to determine if any crimes are committed. Assuming there are, a request is sent to Facebook.
Facebook responds back stating that a court order is required to receive any information that would assist in determining who is behind the fake account. Information such as the IP address or IMEI number used to log into this fake account. Facebook is an American company and again have no obligation to follow Canadian Law.
Now there is a way to receive the most basic information within a month or two BUT to get a copy of all messages sent, wall posts etc., an international warrant would be required. At best, this information, assuming the request was completed correctly in the first instance, would take approximately seven months to receive information back.
You can see how challenging it can be to get information back that would help with investigating cyber-bullying. We needs laws, but we also need International cooperation. Until this happens, we need time to get results, something that we can not afford with many of our most vulnerable youth. This might help some understand why investigations take so long.
As you can see, this legislation is helpful, but does not solve our issues involving bullying. This is just another piece of the puzzle. I applaud the federal government for this important step.
What is required are the other pieces of the puzzle, this includes education, support, leadership and options. This should all be directed to the youth. Every adult has a role to play in this by leading by example. Words that we used to use may have been acceptable years ago but are no longer for example.
We do not need more studies, task forces or surveys, we need action DIRECTLY to the youth!
I ask this, why is each province working on their own anti-bullying intiatives? Lets break this down ... how many people are on these task forces? How much are they being paid? Ultimately, what is different about the youth in that particular province compared to the youth in the province next to them?
What I am getting at is this. Youth are youth are youth. They are no different from one province to the next. Youth are not being bullied differently in different provinces. Why not take the hundreds of people that are working on these task forces and amalgamate? This would save money which in turn could be used to actually reach the youth directly.
I have no idea just how much is being spent on anti-bullying initiative across the country but I think we can all agree it is in the tens of millions of dollars. Then I ask, what has come of it? Every province has their own ways of approaching the topic. Heck, some are still studying the topic and trying to propose provincial legislation. WHY?
Nova Scotia for instance, based on the information I have learned first hand, is a leader. In every school I attended, I saw posters for their 'Stand Up, Speak Out' program. I understand that every youth in the province was given easy to read information on how to deal with bullying. I also learned that every parent was given information directed at them as well. This information included the warning signs and education on what is there to help.
I read the information given out to all ages and the adults trying to see what is unique about this that could not be given out to every youth, and their parents, across Canada. Shy of some resources listed on the back (easily adjusted for each area) there was nothing different. Why can this not be shared and used? It is proactive, direct, easy to read and understand and it targets the youth directly!
I then go to other provinces and I see absolutely nothing on the walls, nothing in guidance offices and nothing in place to help the youth. At best we find five-year strategies. How exactly does that five-year strategy help the youth TODAY that so desperately need it?
We have some incredible experts out there that have studied bullying for years. They have written books, articles and are the leaders in how best to understand what is taking place. Let's use these individuals to start working on ways to help the youth IMMEDIATELY. We do not need more studies, we do not need barriers from one province to the next and we do not need red tape getting in the way.
If everyone truly cares for the youth, we can get this done today!
I have been told numerous times that my program is in direct competition to other anti-bullying strategies. Can you believe that?! This isn't coming from other groups trying to help the cause, rather influential people that just don't get it. To make reference to ANY program out there actually reaching youth and being told this is some sort of competition just sickens me.
These same individuals are the ones that have never spoken to me about what I am doing, never asked about the types of e-mails I am receiving, never asked me a single question about my program.
I do not have a diploma or degree, but I do have experience. Hands on experience. The information I know and continue to learn is directly from the source. I don't think that 7000 e-mails from youth in seven months is something to dismiss.
I make one promise to the youth in every presentation ... that I will always be there for them. I hold true to my word with responding to every e-mail, directing them to the best resources given their challenge and I listen.
The youth simply want someone to talk to, someone that cares, someone that shares something in common with them and they can trust. This isn't hard, in fact this is exactly what we used to do prior to the internet era. Talking and listening, how simple is that?!
I don't expect everyone to get up and start wanting to do their part to "fix" bullying, but I am asking that before you nay-say, at least do a bit of research, ask some questions and see for yourself. See for yourself just how bad it really is for our youth and learn about those that are doing all they can TODAY to help.
If nothing else, give generously to those that you believe in and are at least trying.