Kids use Internet to bully, says prof at anti-bullying week launch

It’s bullying, new-millennium style. In addition to verbal, social and physical bullying, kids are using the Internet to exert power over their victims. It’s called cyberbullying, reported The Toronto Sun Nov. 15. “It’s hurtful because they’re not facing the person face to face and it’s easier for the bully to say mean and hurtful things. They can be as mean as they want,” said Natalie Logan, 17, at an anti-bullying workshop hosted by York University psychology professor and bullying expert Debra Pepler Monday. She was among 16 students from Ursula Franklin Academy and Runnymede Public School who helped Pepler launch National Bullying Awareness Week with prevention exercises and group discussions. “The Internet is a very powerful medium that we as adults are not as caught up on,” Pepler said, adding today’s youth have it much harder because of technology.

Other major Toronto print and television media used Pepler’s launch of National Bullying Awareness Week to produce stories on bullying.

  • The Toronto Star interviewed Pepler about why fellow students often don’t help young people who are being abused. “It is difficult to understand why young people don’t talk [about bullying] but the young people who wield power, wield it in such a way that people are fearful,” said Pepler. “And people may not think it is their business. We seem to have not inculcated into them that they should stand up for their fellow person.” Pepler, a world-renowned expert on aggressive behaviour in children, said the way to fix bullying situations is to get back to the basics and teach children to build relationships with adults they trust. “Children endure bullying for a long time because they fear that adults will not handle the situations properly,” Pepler said. She also warned against heavy-handedness in dealing with the offenders. “Zero tolerance and sending them home to watch TV and to hang out on a corner is not the answer. We need to build the skills these young people are lacking in finding other ways [than bullying] to take power,” she said.
  • Pepler told “CTV News” that children who are victimized experience a wide range of problems including anxiety, low self-esteem, depression and isolation. She said a child’s peers play a role in the outcome of an altercation. “In our research we’ve found that 57 per cent of the time when children intervene in bullying, it stops within 10 seconds,” Pepler said.
  • City-tv’s also highlighted findings of Pepler’s survey for the Canadian Initiative for Prevention of Bullying: one in five Canadian kids who are the victims of the schoolyard toughs suffer in silence and feel powerless to do anything about it. And 20 percent of the mental or physical attacks go on for at least two years. About 1,800 school kids took part in the poll, which discovered most children simply seem to accept bullying as a fact of life. “The findings of this study confirm that a significant number of Canadian children who are bullied do not reach out for help,” said Pepler. “The results also suggest that many children accept bullying as a normal part of life.” The station aired Pepler’s launch of Bullying Awareness Week on “Citynews at Six” Nov. 14.

York ahead of Scarborough in push for subway

The existing Scarborough Rapid Transit will be obsolete in 10 years and a Toronto Transit Commission consultant is looking into options, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 15. Recently, the TTC hired consultant Richard Soberman, who first recommended a line for Scarborough in the 1970s, to report back by May 2006, on options that could include a subway. At a public meeting last week, one of two planned before Soberman completes his study, the long-time transit hand was at pains to lower expectations for a subway, the most expensive option. “What we do for Scarborough has to stand the test of reality,” he told the audience of about 250 people. Meanwhile, York University and neighbouring York Region are well ahead in the push to extend the Spadina subway to the northwest of the city and beyond. An environmental assessment of a possible route already is under way but, as with the SRT, there are no firm public funds committed yet.