Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Author of Report on Cyberbullying Pressing Nova Scotia to Take Action

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Author of Report on Cyberbullying Pressing Nova Scotia to Take Action

Article excerpt

Cyberbullying: N.S. pressed to take action


HALIFAX - Almost a year after a cyberbullying task force issued a report with 85 recommendations for the Nova Scotia government, the author of the study says the province has lost its enthusiasm for combatting an insidious problem.

"They're taking it seriously and I appreciate that," said Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax. "But I ... don't feel that there is as much urgency to deal with some of the recommendations."

In particular, MacKay said he's concerned the province's newly hired anti-bullying co-ordinator, Kathleen Richard, is spending too much time collecting data rather than focusing on finding anti-bullying programs that can be used in schools.

As well, MacKay says he's heard nothing about the province's efforts to implement another key recommendation: adding courses on so-called digital citizenship to the curriculum.

"A lot of young people don't have a sense of what's appropriate or inappropriate in online activity," said MacKay.

"Part of what we have to do in a preventive way is to make students more sensitive to the proper use of the Internet and the hugely negative consequences of abusing their power on the Internet."

MacKay's task force was established in April 2011 after two sets of grieving parents publicly blamed online bullying for the suicides of their teenage daughters.

Education Minister Ramona Jennex insisted in an interview that her department has been working diligently on a plan that will be released soon.

"We haven't stopped work," she said. "There's been an awful lot going on in terms of what's happening in schools."

Addressing MacKay's concerns, Jennex said Richard has been compiling information on the best anti-bullying programs. And the minister said MacKay's call for a digital citizenship course is already being addressed in the classroom.

"Teachers have the resources to present to their students .... how to be safe on the Internet and how to practise digital hygiene," she said. …

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