I forced myself to watch Amanda Todd's YouTube video today. It's heartbreaking. She describes the events that led to her attempts to kill herself. She did kill herself last week.
It started with a 12-year-old's mistake. She lifted her top in front of her webcam. The moment was recorded and dispersed. From that day on, she became a target for bullies. She was harrassed, degraded, beaten and left in a ditch. She changed schools three times to evade her tormentors, but they always found her. Even more shocking than Amanda's YouTube cry for help are the comments being left, to this day, on the YouTube site, calling her names, saying she deserved it. I don't get it. Who are these people? How did they get that way? Why has no one stopped them?
These are the questions that sit in the minds of experts everywhere. What makes a bully? What can be done to prevent them from becoming bullies? Who or what can help the victims?
Sadly, this issue has been studied and studied and studied. There are programs, websites, curricula, books. And still, Amanda Todd is dead.
Today NDP MP Dany Morin is tabling a motion in the House of Commons asking for a national strategy to prevent bullying. M-385. It was in the works weeks ago, but Amanda Todd's recent death has made the issue top of mind.
How would a national strategy help? I asked the experts.
"Yes. It's a public health issue and requires broad social change in the way we think about the quality of relationships. Healthy development depends on the quality of a child's relationships. Countries with a decrease in bullying have all had a national strategy." - Debra Pepler, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology, LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research, York University. Pepler says PREVNet is a good source of information about bullying prevention.
"We do need a national strategy. We've slipped compared to other countries. We need money to be able to work at home and in schools. We don't just want legal consequences, we want it to be preventative. A national strategy would ensure evidence-based programs are used and that all Canadians would have access to them." - Faye Mishna, Dean and Professor at University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. In fact, Mishna has submitted two presentations to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights asking for a national strategy, one in 2007 and another earlier this year. She's also joined us in studio to talk about cyber-bulling.
"Yes, a national bill is important. A bill can draw attention and signify to the nation that confronting the bully issue is essential for the safety and health of each and every child...a bill may encourage more students to speak out and trust that their stories will be heard and taken seriously. In schools...we need to find resources and strategies that encourage students to communicate, create and be compassionate of others. No one lesson centred on bullying can do this." - Larry Swartz, Instructor at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and author, with Kathleen Gould Lundy, of "Creating Caring Classrooms".
We've published all of our bullying interviews and articles on one page. Hope you'll take a look at what we've learned about the issue.
Here's our interview with Faye Mishna about cyber-bulling:
And here's Larry Swartz talking about how to create caring classrooms:
All of our videos are also available as podcasts.
Do you think we can prevent bullying? If so, what will it take? Is a national strategy important?