Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Activist Calls for Prevention, Not Prison, to Combat Cyber-Bullying

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Activist Calls for Prevention, Not Prison, to Combat Cyber-Bullying

Article excerpt

Prevention urged to stop cyber-bullying

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OTTAWA - Threatening to throw the book at young people who bully others online likely won't stop them from picking on their peers, an anti-bullying activist says.

That's because youngsters often don't make the connection between illegal acts and their consequences, said Bill Belsey of Bullying.org, an international project that educates people on bullying.

"Prevention needs to be our priority," he said.

A private members' bill aims to amend the Criminal Code to recognize cyberbullying as an offence. Liberal MP Hedy Fry introduced Bill C-237 in September 2011 as a response to the rising trend of bullying through text messaging, social media and other online forums.

On Wednesday, Conservatives on a House of Commons committee voted against Fry's bill after witnesses raised concerns about it.

Witnesses at the committee called for government support, centred on education and prevention, rather than criminal legislation.

"This would have a modest effect on most teens because it fails to understand the teenage brain," Belsey said.

He said the legislation does not take into account the mindset of young people. In his experience as a middle school teacher and father, Belsey said teenagers live in the moment and do not make the connection between cause and effect, so legislation would be unlikely to deter them.

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