An anti-bullying activist says prevention, not criminal legislation, is the best way to deal with the problem of cyberbullying.
"Prevention needs to be our priority," Bill Belsey of Bullying.org, an international project which works to educate the public about bullying, said on Wednesday.
He's correct, of course. Still, one can't help wondering if it might not help to have some legal consequences in place to deal with serious cases of cyberbullying, such as that which led to the suicide death last fall of B.C. teen Amanda Todd.
A private member's bill introduced by Liberal MP Hedy Fry sought to do just that by amending the Criminal Code to make cyberbullying a criminal offence. Conservatives on a House of Commons committee voted against the bill on Wednesday.
Witnesses appearing before the committee urged education and prevention rather than criminal legislation, which Belsey said would have only a modest effect on most teen bullies. He said it fails to take into consideration that teenagers don't make a connection between cause and effect, so such consequences wouldn't be a deterrent.
It could be argued, however, that consequences are - or should be - the price for actions which hurt other people. If there are no consequences for bullying, whether it be detention for bullying at school or criminal charges for particularly harmful cases of bullying, what will be the deterrent?
It's true that prevention is the preferred method of dealing with bullying. The more children are raised to have empathy and respect for others, the less likely they will be to bully them. As these children grow into adults, they will, hopefully, take those healthy attitudes with them into adulthood.
But there will always be some people who will bully others, for any one of a number of reasons. Consequences need to be in place to deal with such people. And for the few whose bullying is so extreme that it causes serious harm, or perhaps even death, they should have to face appropriate consequences.
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