Cyberbullying has consequences, at least if you get caught

Yesterday, while watching television, I saw the first phase of the conservative government’s “Stop Hating Online” campaign. The advertisement, which is now being broadcast on television and the Internet, features a text/email featuring a photo of someone’s girlfriend, presumably she is exposed. The message is passed along from one person to another, and ends with the kids in the principal’s office with the police. Take a look at the advertisement here:

First I do want to commend the government for taking a stance against cyberbullying. Too many people have been the victim of cruel remarks online. But, if you are going to spend $4 million on an “awareness” campaign, you should at least make sure it is spreading the right message.

Instead of showing cyberbullying from the victim’s perspective, the government has decided to focus on the legality of the issue. This probably stems from their latest policy initiative: Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act. The Act makes it illegal to distribute explicit photographs online without the permission of the subject.

The advertisement is just that, more government propaganda. It isn’t meant to help dissuade today’s youth from sending explicit images or posting cruel comments online. Instead, it is meant to promote policy and show why it is necessary.

In this case, the message the government is sending is that cyberbullying has consequences, and that if you get caught, you could be fined or sent to jail.

For $4 million, I would much rather the government launch an educational campaign teaching children why it’s wrong to send or take explicit photographs in the first place. I would rather every province and territory modify their education policy to include training for teachers and staff on how to deal with issues of cyberbullying. And I would like an advertisement campaign that shows the pain and suffering caused by the spread of mean words and images via the Internet.

Cyberbullying shouldn’t only have consequences if the culprit is turned into the police, because lets be honest: kids aren’t usually tattletales.

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