Yahoo! visitors speak out: How do we handle cyber-bullying?

Matthew Coutts
Pulse of Canada

Prosecute them, publicly shame them, teach them and forgive them. The possible ways to handle the growing issue of cyber-bullying are varied and often conflict one another. But one thing is clear, Canadians are upset and passionate about the latest scourge to afflict our country’s youth.

Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life after being sexually abused while drunk and then cyber-bullied over pictures posted online. She was teased, mocked and isolated. And now she is dead. Another young Canadian whose life was ruined by the cruelty of others.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it was beyond time we took cyber-bullying more seriously, telling reporters, “Bullying to me has a kind of connotation … of kids misbehaving. What we are dealing with in some of these circumstances is simply criminal activity.”

Canadians, it seems, agree. In a discussion this week, Yahoo! Canada News readers offered constructive suggestions on how to address cyber-bullying. It is too late for Retaeh Parsons, but here are some ideas that could stop it from happening again.

For some, the issue comes right down to a lack of respect and appreciation for one another. Taqrin says parents are not doing enough to teach their children respect. “Problem is, parents are not teaching their kids the meaning of RESPECT and without respect for your fellow man you have nothing,” Taqrin wrote. “Treat others the way you would want them to treat you. With respect.”

Ron P. couldn’t agree more, saying, “Simple: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's a tough enough world out there. Try just giving someone a smile.”

[ Related: Stephen Harper 'sickened' by Rehtaeh Parsons story ]

Many more commentators agreed. However, West had another tilt on the issue of parenting, saying boundaries needed to be defined for children:

When my sister and I were kids, we had at least 1 parent home with us 95% of the time. I wasn't allowed to play video games that were rated R, or adult, ditto for watching movies. There were kids we weren't allowed to hang around, there were places we weren't allowed to go.

Parents these days are trying too hard to be the cool parent, not enough of them realize how much harm it can do to be cool parents.

Anna attempted to put herself in the place of parents whose children commit cyber-bullying. She had a tough time:

My boys ever treat another human the way these two young girls were treated they will know they are embarking down a path their father and I will not support. They will know this through a few of the many, many, many talks we will have with them as they grow up.

I keep coming back to how disappointed I would be in them. I wonder what the parents of the four accused boys are thinking about all of this?

Others joined the online debate more interested in how to deal with acts of cyber-bullying than how to avoid future ones.

Lisa wrote that the justice system was too light on bullies. “Start charging those bullies with manslaughter in some form,” she wrote. “Or have them spend their remaining days going from school to school telling their story to other students of how they bullied someone to death and that bullying is no laughing matter....I was bullied to!”

Elaine agreed, saying, “Put some ‘teeth’ into the law. Cyber-bullying is more than just playing malicious pranks. If a suicide results from the bullying then charge the perpetrators with murder.”

[ Pulse of Canada: What can we do to end cyber-bullying? ]

Not everyone was about the justice system. Tnarg felt it was better to handle things personally, writing, “Bullies are always cowards. The best thing to do is to smash them in the face. Then they will leave you alone.”

Of course, in the age of cyber-bullying there are other ways to attack bullies than with violence. Elle sided with the online hackers “Anonymous,” who threatened to release the identities of Parsons’ attackers:

I've never heard of this ‘Anonymous’ group, but I love you, whomever you are. I say do it, release those cowards’ names. Too many kids are KILLING THEMSELVES over cyber-bullying. Maybe if there's some sort of fear of retaliation for the bullies, they won't bully in the first place. I thought bullying was supposed to be a criminal offence now... what the hell happened to that?

Stiffer penalties, physical violence and online retribution may bring sufferers some immediate gratification, but some question whether it is more than a temporary reprieve from the issue. Will it actually cause cyber-bullying to go away?

Neil doesn’t think so. In his post, he said the only way to address bullying is to understand that something has caused those people to lash out.

He writes:

Bullying will never end. That is a fact, harsh but true. And the more rules and regulations that are created to stop it will only serve to further enslave us... and they won’t stop the bullying.

In most cases a bully was bullied themselves, and by their very own parents. Try and imagine what it’s like to go home where you’re supposed to feel safe and you get beat up by your drunk father. Or verbally abused. Such a child feels powerless in a hostile environment and they seek to regain that power and sense of security in any way and any place they can.

What I am getting at is that the true cause of bullying goes much deeper than just "bad kids that need to be punished". Because of this you cannot get rid of or treat the problem with rules against bullying. A bully by their very nature is a rule breaker so it won’t help the real problem. Any rules or regulations will only serve as revenge for hurt families... knowing that their injustice is not going without punishment. Who among us dares to look deeper to the cause of bullying? If you do you will see that it will never be abolished... to wish to abolish it is to want to make the world a perfect place and the more you try to control it and manipulate it with rules the less perfect it becomes.