04/30/2012 11:58 EDT | Updated 06/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Victims of Cyberbullying, Government's Got Your Back

Young people across our country have been confronted with a new challenge, a challenge that many parents, educators and policy makers often have great difficulty understanding. Bullying, which was once something young Canadians encountered at school and on the playground, has now made its way into our homes by way of the Internet. Today, in addition to the social, verbal and physical abuse many students are forced to endure, cyberbullying is yet another form of harassment that continues to victimize our children.

Cyberbullying, as defined by the Montreal police, is the posting of threatening, offensive or degrading messages about someone using words or images; it also includes harassment. Cyberbullying takes place through emails, in chat rooms, discussion groups, websites and through instant messaging.

Recent studies have indicated that 25 per cent of young net surfers say they have received hate messages about other people by email. Thirty-four per cent of nine to seventeen year olds say that they have been victims of bullying during the school year. Of these, 27 per cent were victims of cyberbullying. In fact, it has been estimated that Canadian high schools experience 282,000 incidents of bullying every month.

On November 30, 2011, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights was given the mandate to examine and report upon the issue of cyberbullying in Canada with regard to Canada's human rights obligations under Article 19 of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child. This week the human rights committee will be continuing its study on cyberbullying and will have the pleasure of hearing from professors, the Media Awareness Network, as well as representatives from the Stop A Bully organization.

Although the committee will be welcoming the expertise of professionals who work on the issue of cyberbullying, our study would simply be incomplete without taking into consideration the voices of the very children whom continue to fall victim to this form of abuse. The committee intends to give young people a voice and listen and learn from their experiences by reaching out to them through the social media platforms that they so often frequent, namely Twitter and Facebook.

Without protection and assistance, many children who are victims of cyberbullying are left to face these new challenges alone. The Senate Human Rights Committee intends to study ways in which we can both protect and assist our children by examining potential solutions and raising awareness about this important issue.