January 27, 2021

The Editor Speaks: Are we taking bullying in schools seriously?

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Colin WilsonwebA local survey recently highlighted that one in three children in Cayman Islands schools has been the subject of being bullied.

Bullying behaviour reported by the students included physical assault, tripping, intimidation, rumour spreading and isolation, demands for money, destruction of property, theft of valued possessions, and name-calling.

And if that is not enough we now have cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying is any kind of bullying or harassment done using technology. It can be public, hard to take down, or affect you at home. There are a lot of things it could be, and it can affect people in a lot of different ways.

The definition of cyber bullying is excellently told on the http://au.reachout.com/Cyberbullying website. There are many others like it. This is what it says:

Cyber bullying is bullying that is done through the use of technology, for example, using the Internet, a mobile phone or a camera to hurt or embarrass someone. It can be shared widely with a lot of people quickly, which is why it is so dangerous and hurtful.

Why is cyber bullying so bad?

A lot of people can view or take part in it

It is often done in secret with the bully hiding who they are by creating false profiles or names, or sending anonymous messages

It is difficult to remove as it is shared online so it can be recorded and saved in different places

It is hard for the person being bullied to escape if they use technology often

The content (photos, texts, videos) can be shared with a lot of people

This content may also be easy to find by searching on a web browser like Google.

What does cyber bullying look like?

Being sent mean or hurtful text messages from someone you know or even someone you don’t know

Getting nasty, threatening or hurtful messages through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, or through sites where people can ask / answer questions like Formspring or internet forums

People sending photos and videos of you to others to try to embarrass or hurt you

People spreading rumours about you via emails or social networking sites or text messages

People trying to stop you from communicating with others

People stealing your passwords or getting into your accounts and changing the information there

People setting up fake profiles pretending to be you, or posting messages or status updates from your accounts

How it can affect people

Feeling guilty like it is your fault

Feeling hopeless and stuck like you can’t get out of the situation

Feeling alone, like there is no one to help you

Feeling like you don’t fit in with the cool group

Feeling depressed and rejected by your friends and other groups of people

Feeling unsafe and afraid

Stressed out wondering what to do and why this is happening to you

Sandra Catron, Cayman’s infamous activist filed a lawsuit in 2011 against a former boyfriend and two women for web-based harassment.

When she had approached the authorities about the matter the police (not surprisingly she doesn’t look upon them as her friends) said there was not much that they could do to prevent the harassment.

And when a Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officer has to take his own legal action against a senior police officer for alleged bullying it makes many of us question why the very people paid to protect us seem not to view the subject seriously enough.

The problem is it is hard to prove.

And what is government actually doing about it? How high up is it on their list of priorities? What are the schools doing about it?

The public sector has jumped up to the plate with various initiatives and I thank them very much. The ads that we hear on some of the local radio stations, paid for by likeminded citizens and companies are having an impact.

CITN/Cayman27 did a programme just a few days ago on cyber bullying.

A press release from “The Be the Difference” campaign said, “Bullying is a complex problem that needs to be addressed cooperatively by schools, families and communities to make Cayman a safer place for all.”

Dr. Jill Kristal, a prominent psychologist who specializes in treating children and families said, “The Be the Difference campaign will spread the word about bullying, encourage schools to adopt anti-bullying programs, inform parents and teachers of the warning signs and how to discuss this issue with children.”

Last April “Be the Difference” materials were distributed to Cayman schools.  The kit included movies, workbooks, and discussion guides “designed to ignite honest, meaningful dialogue about the issue of bullying”.  Educators and organizations who contributed to the kit included Harvard Graduate School of Education, Not In Our School, Love is Louder, the National Center for Learning Disabilities and Facing History and Ourselves.

Cayman businesses that have partnered with Z99 and Rooster 101 to broaden outreach on this issue included Burger King, Caledonian Global Financial Services, Davenport Development, Edgewater Development, Flowers Group, Island Taste, and Lime.

Excellent. And what has been the result of all this?

I have heard nothing more.

Did we hear anything at all about this initiative from the government? How many schools accepted the stop bullying materials? How many didn’t?

Are there any laws on the statute book to make it easier to prosecute bullying, especially cyber bullying?

In Nova Scotia, Canada, laws have just been put in place giving victims of cyber bullying the ability to sue alleged cyber bullies.

If alleged cyber bullies are minors, the new legislation allows victims to hold the bully’s parents responsible.

The legislation allows victims to apply for protection orders to place restrictions on, or identify, the cyber bully.

Justice Minister Ross Landry said, “Too many young people and their families are being hurt by cyber bullies. I committed to families that the province would work with them to better protect our children and young people. Court orders, and the ability to sue, are more tools that help put a stop to this destructive behaviour.”

I hope some of our ministers are reading this Editorial. If you are and agree more needs to be done, why not send them a copy to make sure they read it?

Government cannot rely just on the private sector and it would be nice to hear what steps the RCIPS are taking. If they say they don’t have the laws in place let’s hear them say they are taking steps to address it.




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