Now Canadian Teachers Want Cyberbullying To Be A Criminal Offense

from the overreact-much? dept

At some point, people need to realize that there are some people out there who just do jerkry things. In fact, at some point or another, probably most everyone is a jerk to someone else. It's no fun to be on the receiving end of someone being a jerk -- but it happens. However, in the last few years, there's been this silly focus on trying to turn online jerks into criminals. We've already highlighted such an effort underway in the US, but now a bunch of teachers in Canada are pushing to make cyberbullying a criminal offense. Yes, it's important to deal with cyberbullies, but charging them with a crime clearly goes too far.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Lucretious, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 2:09pm

    yes, because kids will automatically learn to deal with difficult people the minute they turn 18.

    Keep knocking off the sharp edges of the world and your kid will grow up to be afraid of his own shadow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Ven'Tatsu, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 2:25pm

    I might consider dealing with cyberbullying a worthwhile cause after teachers make and effort to deal with real world bullying.
    If teachers can't deal with bullying in their own classrooms why do they think bullying that goes on far from their own field of vision will be something they can prevent?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    John, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 2:28pm

    Think you're missing something here. Cyberbullying can cause harm, even if its only stress and worry. Those can and do cause physical and mental harm. Face to face bullying is bad enough, and it is an assault. CB is worse because you can't face up and defend yourself against the assailant. I fully think the victims of regular bullying should stand up for themselves more, but something else is needed as a defense against CB. I don't think, however that the laws will be set right, 'tho.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 2:41pm


    I think you're missing the point. Cyber bullying is something, that in the end, you can choose to ignore, you can delete comments messages etc. Almost every online community or app give you a means by which to deal with spam, annoying users, and so forth.

    In contrast, say a real life bully... punches you in the face. That's not something you can simply delete or add to your ignore list.

    I think a law like this is ridiculous.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 2:42pm

    John, "being an asshole" isn't, and shouldn't be, a crime.

    There are already laws in place against harassment, which should cover any of the serious cyber bullying that goes on.

    It's just another attempt to demonise the internet, and some more "WE MUST PROTECT DA CHILDRUN!" crap from people who aren't doing their own jobs properly.

    Like Ven'Tatsu says, if teachers and school authorities can't deal with bullying in real life, where you can *see* the bully and the victim out of the window, how on Earth do they expect anyone to do anything about bullying via email?

    I agree that it shouldn't be something that's just laughed at and ignored, but making "cyber bullying" into a criminal offence isn't the right way. If anything, some basic education on how to use the internet would do wonders (an amazing amount of people don't seem to know how to block an email address, or block a contact on MSN, for example).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 2:42pm

    Re: missing something

    but you can defend against cyber bullying. if it is attacks on a system, you can turn it into a legal matter with channels that are already in place. if it is only a 'verbal' issue most places and services allow methods of blocking, banning, ignoring, or otherwise stopping unwanted people from bugging you.

    the internet is the great leveler for bullying, anyone can learn to defend themselves from verbal attacks

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Formerly Anonymous coward, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 2:44pm

    appropriate response

    There is a very easy way to stop cyberbullying.
    Turn off the computer. Disconnect the internet, being in these channels is a chioce, just like what you watch on TV, or listen to on the radio.
    If you feel your child is not capable of dealing with what they may encounter in these areas, do not let your child go there unsupervised. Do you take your 5 year old to the ghetto to show them crack dealers?
    If your child needs protection it is the parents job, not the laws, the provision of criminal law is to protect society. Not the individual, the individual needs to have some capability to look out for him/herself and their own family/property/personal preferences.
    The answer is not always to litigate, sometimes the answer is personal accountability.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Known Coward, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 2:46pm

    In the grand scheme of things is this really a big deal? I mean, yeah, kids can be jerks sometimes, hell I was one, I received my fair share of grief. But that is something that nearly every kid has had to deal with at some point in there life. Yeah it sucks, but so does hunger, famine, disease, drought, and war. But I guess I am missing the point, why protect our children from those things when we can criminalize being an ass. I guess we have to work on our priorities.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 2:49pm


    You are definitely missing something John.

    Life is not a nice safe place right now. Won't be for a while. For generations bullying has been the norm of school life. Even jocks get bullied at times (always older kids).

    Cyberbullying should be dealt with similiarly. How do you deal with real life bullying? Two ways, usually done simultaneously.

    A) Teach your kid to deal with it.
    B) Punish the kid doing the bullying.

    You can't do B if the parents of the Bully won't help either. All that will do is make it worse for the kid getting picked on. It pays to Know Your Foe.

    I was picked on in elementary and middle school. I honestly wouldn't be who I am today without having been picked on.

    Oddly enough, some of the people that used to beat me up have turned around to be decent folks once we were in high school. Some bullies do learn what they did was bad, and they regret it.

    What if bullying had been a crime? Some of these guys are overall good guys - now at least. But if it was a crime they'd have a nasty record and possibly have gone to juvie which doesn't help anyone except a few rare cases.

    Knee jerk reactions are dangerous. America is already paying for one we were led into by the Administration. Don't make things worse for future generations with yet another one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Matt, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 3:02pm

    Re: 100% agreed

    This reminds me of a philosophical discussion that goes "if you killed every stupid person in the world nobody would be left" and the reasoning is that everyone appears stupid to someone by definition.

    Same idea, if you made it illegal to "be an asshole" its too vague of a perception. 100% agreed on the rest of your phrases here.

    If a kid doesn't know how to deal with bullying then obviously the parents have been failing at their job in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Mark, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 3:41pm


    When teachers have come to the point they would rather see the children they teach go to jail then succeed in life we have reached a very sad time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    flanksteak, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 6:48pm

    Any part of bullying that constitutes a real threat to a person's well-being, whether online or IRL, is already covered by other laws.

    Physical assault. Libel. Slander. Burglary or theft. Vandalism. Patterns of harassment can be fought with civil restrictions like restraining orders. I'd imagine there's even more fine-grained legal separations within the Code that apply.

    We're left to wonder, what essential gaps remain in the current law that this legislation fills? Punishing people who write things that someone else gets butthurt about? As others have pointed out, that pretty much covers everyone, including the person who's building up a good head of steam reading my own post right now.

    Ending bullying is a fine, high-minded sentiment. I'm sure we'll eventually get to it, probably shortly after we end war, poverty, and all get those cool flying cars that fold up into briefcases like the Jetsons.

    In the interim, however, this just feeble, feel-good political grandstanding by yet another politician. All sound and fury, signifying nothing, as it were.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2008 @ 7:03pm


    Learning not to care is a good trick for dealing with any bullying. And it builds up those oh so important middle finger muscles.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Blaise Alleyne (profile), Jul 23rd, 2008 @ 5:49am


    Just because laws against CB are ridiculous doesn't mean that it can't be addressed in other ways. Of course it's a problem, but it shouldn't be a criminal offence.

    Teachers can work to combat it, in the same way they work to combat bullying. Parents can teach their children to handle it, just like they do with bullying (it's not as if people stop being jerks when they're adults).

    Everything that causes harm shouldn't be illegal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    tee'd off, Jul 23rd, 2008 @ 6:18am

    The worst part of this all is the un-even enforcement of this law. Teachers who are "cyber-bullied" will always have the maximum penalty applied against the perpetrators. While for students who receive similar treatment, their bully's only get a slap on the wrist (or a "children can be so mean").

    So let's be honest here this isn't a let's protect the children scenario at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Abdul, Jul 23rd, 2008 @ 7:01am

    Internet Harrasment on the Rise!!

    According to a new report, internet harrasment has been on the rise and one of the reasons put forward for this increase is the inadequacy of legislation to deal with it. I think the canadian authorities are doing the right thing and should be commended: Internet Harassment Is on the Rise, Research Shows(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Jul 23rd, 2008 @ 7:33am

    Re: Internet Harassment on the Rise!!

    Research shows that Internet usage is on the rise. Take a wild guess what else is on the rise. Things moving to the Internet, both good and bad. It's just another tool. I'd bet your research doesn't add that part now douse it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Ben Taylor, Jul 23rd, 2008 @ 8:01am

    Going too far? More like about bloody time. Have you not heard the horrible stories of kids committing suicide because of the bullying they are subjected to online? Of course it should be a crime. Bullying is NOT okay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    John Wilson, Jul 23rd, 2008 @ 1:28pm

    At times I'm almost ashamed of being Canadian

    And it's usually times like this when a group of people calls out to criminalize, oh, say, cyberbullying.

    I'm also at a total loss to find anything that it would improve. Oh, it feels good to those calling for it because it imposes the greatest legal sanction the state has against the behaviour. And it is, of course, about protecting the children.

    OK..that's out of the system now then let's take the time to actually look at why it won't work.

    First of all as it would be a criminal offence the Crown and only the Crown (is US parlance the State) could bring a charge forward under the new Criminal Code offence. Crown Counsel (Prosecutor in US parlance) would have to look at the charge to see if there's enough chance of a conviction to even take it into a Criminal Court. Then the charge has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt which is hard to do. I can't imagine what evidence would manage that for one thing.

    Secondly if you can do that the offender, often also a young person 18 or under, will be tried and sentenced as a young offender.

    As critics of Canada's Young Offenders Act have correctly pointed out the main problem with the Act is the lack of any real consequences for criminal behaviour. Sanction without consequences is no sanction at all. I'm not in any way advocating that young offenders be treated with the same harshness as adult offenders, by the way. Though those of us living in British Columbia often think that adult sentences are something of a bad joke.

    Oh, and as shaming is one of the most effective ways of dealing with a bully a tool for doing that is removed simply because the Young Offenders Act forbids publication of the name of the accused/convicted young offender.

    So just exactly what has been accomplished here other than to ensure that it is actually harder to "protect the children" than it is now.

    Left as a civil action all that is needed to deal with a kid is what is called, in legal terms balance of probabilities a far lower standard of proof that what's required in a criminal proceeding. In short the way discipline, what there is of it, is carried out in school systems right now. It's also possible to discipline a group of children without having to deal with proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Let's also remember here that cyberbullying is started and done at its worst by kids the victim already knows. Others on places like Facebook and YouTube may join in from around the world but the start always occurs with a known perpetrator or perpetrators. People that know you are also the ones who can cut the deepest with this.

    Let's also remember that studies have shown that the vast majority of cyberbullies are girls and that their victims are girls.

    One of (the only?) saving graces of teenage boy macho culture is that it demands that issues are dealt with face to face. Male perpetrators are an order of magnitude fewer than female perpetrators.

    The problem with do-gooders, at least in Canada, is that they want good to be done but are reluctant to do it themselves. It's easy to say that "I've done something" and forget it by passing motions like the one the national teachers organization did that call for criminalization of a behaviour then sit back and do nothing but complain when it doesn't or can't happen for reasons like those I've outlined above.

    Still, they get to say they've done something when, in fact, they've done nothing at all. Less than nothing, in fact.



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    A Different John, Jul 23rd, 2008 @ 2:25pm


    Ya know, if it weren't for the fact that kids were offing themselves, I'd have to agree with you, but when 30, 40 and 50-somthing year old adults relentlessly text, email, phone, create malicious web sites to threaten, embarass, humiliate, blackmail and extort kids (who by the way may already be getting picked on/bullied in school, on the way home from school, near their own homes, etc.) I don't think this is just a matter of punishing someone who's being a jerk, it's to get the people who don't give it a rest...who are told to stop and don't, figuring, who's gonna stop me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Troy, Mar 3rd, 2009 @ 10:30am


    IF kids would justfollow the status quo everything would just be chill. Cause its when prople like nick pipe jacking off in the library that internet fights start. So if he would of followed the status quo and kept it in his pants everybody would live in harmony.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Cindy in Canada, Apr 8th, 2009 @ 8:41pm

    bullying in general

    when our children walk into school, they shed their rights as a person. If someone walks up, slugs your kid, and he swings back, it's his ass going to the office to get yelled at. I did all the conventional things for my boy, meet the teacher/parent/other kid... How many beatings must they take before they're permitted to land one honest slap on their tormentor?
    My kid is bigger now, and he absolutely refuses to be beaten on anymore. Last week, a large kid put a smaller kid(by the neck) over a steel railing, and proceeded to 'pile drive' with an elbow on that kid's neck, over the f'n rail. How long did they want three or four kids to wait? Takes about five to ten minutes to fetch some teacher to stop it. The child could have been killed, maimed, or destroyed. My son threw off the attacker, saved the small boy, who immediately collapsed. He got screamed at, threatened with expulsion...excuse me. My kid saved that little boy's life, without doubt. I gave him $100 cash, and told him he was my hero, if no one else's. So for this zero tolerance bs, if ya wanna play that game, put the f'n coffee down, get yer high assed attitude onto the playground, and protect the children. If they don't want to do that, return to us the right to sue. Recently, a six year old child choked to death after being sent to the bathroom--she thought he was going to puke on her classroom floor. He died. They refused an inquest, his mother hung herself. Our schools have no accountability, and our children are defenceless in them. I disagree with bullying, and throwing kids in jail. But I will never tell my son to stand and let some asshole slap him around. You swing on him, ya best be ready for a full on punch, square in your uneducated mouth. How canadian is that? For any who take offence, in any way to any single word, phrase, collection of such, or otherwise, bite me. When your child is delivered to you in a body bag, and you can't do shit all about it, come on back, and we'll debate self defence and human rights in canadian schools.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Olivia, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 10:48am

    of course it should be a criminal offense...bullying is harrasment whether it is in person or not. im sure if you were the one being tormented you would feel the same way...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    olivia, Apr 23rd, 2009 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re:

    so what about when the bully send it to everyone at school?? are you telling me that people arent going to bully someone in person for things like that?? that is the whole point CB leads to real world bullying. they are the same thing!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    دردشه, Jul 5th, 2009 @ 2:21pm

    they are the same thing

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    شات صوتى, Jul 17th, 2009 @ 8:00am



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Rathan Nose, Nov 23rd, 2009 @ 9:10am

    You guys should stop cyber bullying eachother

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Rathan Nose, Nov 23rd, 2009 @ 9:29am

    I too agree with everyone on here that cyber bullying should not be a criminal offense. If a kid can't deal with someone talking shit about him/her over a computer how is he/she going to survive in the real world. Cyber bullying is a joke, a kid shouldn't be hurt by the comments someone has posted about them. Especially if the bully is too childish to not say it to the kids face. try turning off your computer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 12th, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    Kids commit suicide as a result of cyber bullying. They bully, the source of the psychological trauma, shouldn't be held accountable?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. icon
    lrobbo (profile), May 29th, 2012 @ 4:19pm

    Each case needs to treated on its individual merit. I mean some of the Facebook trolling that goes on here in the UK has resulted in prison sentences recently.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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