Action on Bullying

We, as parents, need to talk about zero tolerance for bullying
By Pam Dillon

Once again bullying is in the national spotlight because a youngster has died by suicide. Today in the House of Commons, Members of Parliament are debating an anti-bullying motion introduced by New Democrat Dany Morin. The motion calls for the creation of a national strategy to prevent bullying and it comes in the wake of Amanda Todd’s death last Wednesday.  She was 15 – the same age Ottawa’s Jamie Hubley was when he died by suicide last fall. Both teens were bullied.

In September, Amanda uploaded a video onto YouTube detailing the brutal bullying she endured online and in person.  She was subjected to years of it.  All the abuse started with a single incident, a split-second decision.  Told she was beautiful, Amanda was urged to lift her top while on a webcam.  She did.  She was 12.

An online stalker used the image to blackmail and degrade her.  Peers were relentless in passing judgment and tormenting her.  Amanda’s video is devastating – and necessary – for parents to watch.  Kids are at risk. A 12-year-old doesn’t need to do anything to potentially be subjected to online or personal torment.  Words can be every bit as harmful as images.  People of all ages can and do prey on others.  The potential for online vitriol to spread and grow offline is alarming.

That’s why community leaders, politicians and parents across the country and beyond are looking for ways to protect kids and stop a horrifying public trend.  Each one of the young people involved – in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Ottawa, Ontario or anywhere – has parents.  At home, within families, at school and in the community, the messages need to be consistent.

We, as parents, need to talk about zero tolerance for bullying. We need to talk about tolerance, inclusion and respect for ourselves and others. We need to repeat – over and over again – a few key messages:

1. Do no harm.

2. If you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing.

3.  Stand up to bullies. Stand up for kids who are excluded. Say, “Stop! That’s not okay.”

Most importantly, we parents need to model the behavior and show the way, starting right now.

Ottawa’s Allan Hubley sets an excellent example.  The city councillor has worked tirelessly to make a difference since his own son died at this time last year. In today’s Ottawa Citizen newspaper he says the focus now should be on action.  “The front line resources that will help these kids when they need it most, that moment when they’re about to make that decision, they are under-funded. That is where we need to put our energy and our efforts,” he is quoted as saying in a story by Natalie Stechyson.

At the same time, BullyingCanada, a national charity, doesn’t have enough cash-flow to operate at full capacity for the month of November. The organization works directly with schools and families across Canada to ensure support in a bullying situation is provided to any party involved. Its 24/7 support line receives about 10,000 calls each month. Online, at www.BullyingCanada.ca, some 5,000 youth reach out for support every month.

It too is at risk. Established since 2006, BullyingCanada receives no government or United Way funding and operates on public and corporate donations. If you want to support its efforts, donations can be made at www.bullyingcanada.ca, by calling toll-free, 877 947-3674, or by mail.  

In Ottawa, donations to the Youth Services Bureau can also make a difference in providing critical front-line supports. Visit www.ysb.on.ca for details about how you can help.  

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