Cyber-bullying is getting out of hand in Mississauga and Brampton, and young teens could be charged if they post and send messages without thinking about the consequences, Peel Regional Police said today in launching an initiative to combat the problem.
Peel police Deputy Chief Dan McDonald told reporters that although final numbers are still being tallied, the number of those victimized by cyber-bullying last year and in early 2013 has skyrocketed.
“The numbers are increasing because everybody has a device nowadays and it’s causing the numbers to go up,” he said. “People need to stop and think about what they’re doing before sending a message.”
Today at police headquarters, officers announced a new cyber-bullying initiative that will kick off this year at four schools in Mississauga and Brampton.
The project is being offered thanks, in large part, to a $50,000 grant from Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
The project includes lesson plans being introduced into the school curriculum regarding cyber-bullying and a poster/video project asking students to produce each as part of a contest.
School board officials will be asking students to create a media product that addresses the following: What if everyone did something to stop cyber-bullying, while creating a respectful, positive environment.
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board education director John Kostoff said bullying isn’t a new problem facing schools.
“But cyber-bullying is particularly insidious. It multiplies itself. It’s relentless,” he said. “It follows the student on the street, on the bus and into their home.”
McDonald said too often teens think posting insulting messages on Facebook or sending ridiculing text messages is “some kind of light-hearted joke.”
But, he said, it’s not to those being victimized.
McDonald added those who cyber-bully face charges that could include mischief or criminal harassment.
However, he added the force’s goal is to avoid situations getting to that stage.
“We hope that police are the last ones getting involved,” he said.
Last December, Peel police charged a 13-year-old Mississauga boy for posting a video to Facebook of a girl being beaten up by another girl. The case is before the courts.
Peel District School Board education director Tony Pontes said it’s time students and parents take “digital responsibility” for their actions.
An Ipsos Reid survey of more than 400 Canadian teens last year shows one in five have witnessed online bullying, while 25 per cent of kids between 12-15 have witnessed cyber-bullying.
The survey also revealed 25 per cent of girls and 17 per cent of boys have witnessed online harassment.