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cyber bullyingKids can be cruel. Almost as cruel as so-called grown-ups. That cruelty has found its way on to the web in the form of cyber bullying, and into the lives of countless young people who thought they might be able to escape the harassment by enjoying their on-line pursuits.

Recently in Canada, there was the tragic case of Rehtaeh Parsons – allegedly raped at a party, photographed, and the photographs went out on the Internet. This led to the kind of humiliation which no person should ever even have nightmares about. Rehtaeh and her parents had gone to the R.C.M.P., her school, and the hospital seeking help, but received none. This is pretty much the way things had played out for Amanda Todd, of British Columbia, Canada and Audrie Pott, of California, U.S.A. It is very likely this is the story of an untold number of girls AND boys, like Ryan Patrick Halligan, the world over. The cruelty we adults burden these children with is the cruelty of indifference.

Cassidy’s Cyber Bullying Story

I want to tell you about 13 year-old Cassidy of Western Canada. Cassidy was a very athletic girl, was on the honor roll, and generally a pretty popular kid. I knew Cassidy personally and saw her every day. She was a true champ in all respects. Adults often commented on how responsible she was, and other kids often came to her for help. One day, for whatever reason kids do hurtful things, a boy at her school decided he didn’t like Cassidy. This is where the trouble started.

What caused this event was Cassidy being made a Student Advisor. This was a position that was created to reward good students who showed leadership skills and concern for others. Student Advisors were called upon to supervise the class in the brief absence of a teacher and to help younger kids with homework or problems at school. They were marked on their performance of these roles. Cassidy’s teacher chose her, and put her in charge of the class for up to an hour at a time. When the kids acted poorly, the teacher told Cassidy that she needed to get a better grip on the students. Cassidy was not a vocal person and shunned even minor conflict. She didn’t even order her own food at restaurants until she was 10 because she was so shy. It took a lot of courage for her to ask the other kids to calm down and be quiet. Once she did, one boy in Grade Six decided he had it in for her and wanted to make her feel awful.

cyber bullying

Kids do things like this and their weird mind games change by the hour at that age. I recall everybody in my Grade 6 class all of a sudden writing wills and leaving comic books to other kids who promised to leave their Transformers to them, and so on. It seemed fun, and funny, at the time, but looking back it was pretty bizarre and morbid behavior. But, by the second-recess, the hub-bub was over and it was on to something else. The web changed that. The web makes things stick for life. The web can be, and often is, forever.

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The Hate Page

The boy created a Facebook Page called something like, “I Hate Cassidy and I Hope She Dies.” Friends of Cassidy’s on Facebook started liking the page and then making horrible comments about how much they hated her too, and that she should ‘just die’ or ‘just kill herself’. She was called names as well, cutting names about her appearance. There were accusations of being a brown-noser or teacher’s pet, but in coarse terms like ‘bitch’ and worse.
what is cyber bullying
Because of the cyber bullying, Cassidy was convinced her friends had never really liked her and really were going to hate her forever. She believed the lies about her appearance and personality. Cassidy sobbed for a long time, many times. Cassidy had a strong relationship with her parents and knew she could talk to them. She showed her Mom and Dad the hate page and told them how it made her feel. They told her about their experiences, that this isn’t something new, it’s just a new and horribly cowardly way to do it. It wasn’t brushed off and ignored, the situation was just given some context by two people who had lots of life experience in this kind of thing. They also told her they’d take care of it and try not to embarrass her even further. So often kids are scared that if their parents step in, they’re just going to make things worse. That’s not the case if the parents show tact, diplomacy, and discretion.

The School’s Response

Her Dad is an IT guy and took screenshots of everything and determined when the page was actually created – during class time in the computer lab, under teacher supervision. Her parents thought that this was something the school would want to know about, and trusted that the school would help put an end to this cyber bullying. With the print-outs in hand, they went to see the school’s Principal. Not only did he offer no support other than a little glad-handing and perfunctory, “Oh I’m sorry about this.”, it came out that the teacher of that class actually HELPED the boy make the hate page. “It’s on the Internet, there’s nothing we can do. The Internet is not our responsibility.” the Principal said. The teachers response, in front of Cassidy’s Mom was, “Well, I have to go tell the boy to get it off there before he gets in trouble, and tell the other kids to get off of it too!”

This was the same teacher who helped the boy make the page. The teacher tracked down the family, as they were headed out of country on a vacation, to tell the boy to take the page down before he got in trouble. The page came down immediately and some rude remarks were made by his parents about Cassidy’s parents being troublemakers. Nothing happened in the way of discipline or even an apology. Coincidentally, the boy’s family is a fairly prominent one in that little western town.
what is cyber bullying
Up the chain, the parents went to the Superintendent of the school district. Cassidy’s parents knew a thing or two about municipal politics and bureaucracy, so they knew how to manoeuvre the system and what key things to say to a Superintendent. They did get his attention, and he did give the Principal a mini-lecture, but still nothing was done to discipline the teacher OR the student that did the cyber bullying. “I can’t do anything. The Teachers’ Union has my hands tied.”, said the Superintendent. Coincidentally, the Superintendent was retiring very soon.

Facebook’s Response

Her parents then contacted Facebook directly and brought the page to their attention. They responded quickly and responsibly, sending the parents copies of the now-removed page so they’d have something to take to the authorities. The fellow that they talked with was compassionate and extremely helpful. Good for you Facebook, good for you.

The Police’s Response

Cassidy wasn’t sleeping well anymore and began to withdraw. It was time to take the case to the police. This was cyber bullying after all and anti-bullying is the big cause for police agencies. Her class had been through anti-bullying seminars put on by the police. The kids were 12 and over, and there were death threats made and, obviously, criminal harassment. Yet the police simply pointed the parents back to the school, even when told the school wasn’t going to do anything about it. Did I mention the boy’s family is a fairly prominent one in that little western town?

The Human Rights Commission’s Response

In Canada, each province has a Human Rights Commission or similar agency that is supposed to be there to protect everyone’s human rights. The Commission had prosecuted employers successfully for calling employees names. The Commission had prosecuted a small periodical for reporting on a contentious issue that made some readers “uncomfortable”. Surely, they could do something to help Cassidy and help ensure this didn’t happen again at her school. Cassidy was publicly humiliated, her trust violated by people in positions of authority, and was starting to suffer the physical effects of stress and anxiety – increased weight gain, high blood pressure resulting in frequent and uncontrollable nosebleeds, and even some hair loss. Surely this was a violation of her right to an education in a non-hostile environment, and her right to justice. The Human Rights Commission didn’t even return her parents phone calls.

The Final Response

Mom and Dad had many heart-to-heart talks with Cassidy, and family friends too. Cassidy was a part of the fight against the cyber bullying all the way along, and it’s a good thing that she was. She learned that her parents would always fight for her. She learned that maybe the people that are supposed to help and defend you aren’t quite as dedicated as they say they are. She learned that persistence and conviction of her beliefs might not fix everything, but it will leave her soul intact. Cassidy lived through her ordeal.

The family eventually moved to another part of Canada as they saw situations just like this play out all over Western Canada, where Amanda Todd and Reena Virk were from. There were some other incidents along the way that helped to make the decision to move – gang violence in her school, threats of her being cut by a kid brandishing a knife for just being in someone’s way, and a multi-day suspension for kissing a boy on the cheek. Or, as the same Principal called it, “Inappropriate sexual conduct.”

What Happened To Cassidy

Once her family got where they were going, Cassidy resumed being awesome, but a lot of her innocence was lost. She never really trusted many of her friends anymore, and stopped blindly trusting authority figures who said that they were looking out for her. She came to understand that only family really looks out for family, and even then that isn’t always true. In some ways, it made her more independent and even more responsible. As an older teenager, you can still see the hurt and anger on her face when she sees anyone verbally or physically push someone else around. You can feel her loneliness when she talks about what other kids at school are doing and the parties and events she chooses to miss. She refuses to let situations happen where this might happen to her again in a worse way.

When the topic comes up at school, since this is still a fashionable cause, she readily tells of her experience and what real cyber bullying is and what it can do to a person. Cassidy is now a provincial level athlete with decent grades, a part-time job, her own car and big life goals including university and making the national team. Our family keeps in close contact with her to this day. Let’s call cyber bullying what it is, let’s call bullying what it really is – terrorism, abuse, assault, a human rights violation. Kids will tease and kids will taunt. It still hurts, that’s life. It doesn’t stop at any age and never will. Yet there is a line that should be clearly defined and parents, teachers, police, all adults must teach kids about. More importantly, we need to show kids with our own daily behaviour that abuse, extortion, and sexual assault is not acceptable.

What Can I Do If I’m Being Cyber Bullied?

Talk With Your Parents Or An Adult You Trust

Whatever the problem, talk with your parents. Even if it is an embarrassing picture or video of you doing something you really don’t want your parents to know about. As a dad, I can tell you I would be far more angry with you that you hurt yourself, or killed yourself, than I would about what ever you were doing in the pictures or video. We all do stupid things we regret, even your Mom and Dad. Most of us live through our most embarrassing moments, usually because we can talk with someone about it. If you really feel you can’t talk about it with your folks, maybe you have a relative or teacher that you trust. Talk to them about it, and about how you can eventually talk with Mom and Dad about it. Sooner or later you really need to.

Understand That Some People Are Just Mean

At least 3% of the people you meet in your life aren’t going to like you, no matter how awesome you are. Understand that they’re missing out on knowing someone who is pretty cool. There is no-one on earth that is worth any more, or any less than you are. Every human is priceless – and that means you.

Look 10 Years Into The Future

If you’re 12 now, in 10 short years where will that jerk be? Probably pushing people around in his minimum wage job, getting drunk or stoned every night, and living a miserable life without even knowing it. Where are you going to be when you’re 20? You might not even live in the same town. You could be graduating from college, with a whole new set of friends. You could be working on a new song, or making the next killer game online. You might even be married. The future is yours. The future doesn’t belong to bullies.

What Can I Do To Fight Abuse On The Internet?

Talk With Your Children

It’s you and them against the world, folks. If you aren’t enjoying your conversations with them daily, you’re missing out on a lot of precious moments you can never get back. It sets the framework of trust for when they really need to talk with you. Trust me, they will really need to talk with you someday. This doesn’t mean you have to be their best buddy or that you have to promise not to get mad. Getting angry is fine, it’s human. Just save it for after the crisis is worked through and everyone is okay. By then your anger will be better tempered by a cooler head and what you are saying and doing will be much better received. That’s my opinion, anyway. If you see that your kids are being hurtful to other kids, educate them. Maybe they have a right to be angry, so show them how to channel that anger properly. Teach them some basic conflict resolution skills, like expressing their feelings and opinions in a calm manner. The more you talk with your kids the more you’ll know them and their world. You’ll be able to see warning signs such as weight loss or gain, trouble concentrating, putting themselves down, fast changes in appearances and moods. Don’t be afraid to talk with them if you think something is wrong.

Teach Them About the Internet and You

Many of you have been on the Internet long enough now to have a history. Show your kids some stuff you posted back in 2001, or 1996, just not the stuff that might be R-rated. They’ll understand that stuff sticks around on the Internet. Talk to them about stories like Cassidy’s, Amanda’s and the boy who posted a sex-video from his cellphone, and was charged with making child porn. In that boy’s case, the sex was allegedly consensual, yet police and the news are calling the girl the only victim. Really, the boy has victimized himself too. Who knows when that video will resurface in his life? Whatever your views are on premarital sex are, try to make your kids understand that whatever they do is nobody’s business but theirs and yours as their parent.

what is cyber bullying
Perhaps even more importantly, show them that people aren’t always who they say they are on the Internet. That cute boy or girl who wants to see a little more of you is highly likely to be an old pervert who’ll end up sending your pictures to their creepy friends.

Shape Their Internet Experience

There are various opinions about when and how to expose your kids to technology At What Age Should Kids Be Exposed to Technology? [You Told Us] At What Age Should Kids Be Exposed to Technology? [You Told Us] New and emerging technology has always been associated with the younger generations. Older people tend to be set in their ways, leaving those under a certain age to discover gadgets and gizmos as they arrive... Read More . In the broader sense, they are exposed to technology the day they are born. You can still shape their experience though. Just like you may decide which TV shows they can watch, or when they are old enough for a cellphone, you have a say in how they go online. If your boy or girl wants to join Facebook, or any other website, look into it before you say it’s okay to go ahead. Don’t wimp out with the ‘They’re just going to do it anyway” excuse. You are their parent, you shape their world-understanding. Understand what the site’s policies are on minors using the site and inappropriate content. Understand that it’s okay to check out their page every now and again, as well as their friends’ pages. Get some ideas from Ryan Dube’s article on How To Get Kids To Use Facebook Responsibly How To Get Kids To Use Facebook Responsibly How To Get Kids To Use Facebook Responsibly Over the last few weeks, news hit the Internet that Facebook is looking at ways to allow kids under 13 to use Facebook under parental supervision. For quite some time now, Facebook has required all... Read More . You’d check on them if they were playing in the backyard, wouldn’t you? Then why not on the World Wide Web?
cyber bullying
Many Internet Service Providers and Software Developers also have free or inexpensive tools that will help you regulate your kids online exposure McGruff SafeGuard- Free Spy Software Download to Watch Your Kids Online McGruff SafeGuard- Free Spy Software Download to Watch Your Kids Online Read More . It might be a scheduler that only allows them online at certain times. It might be a blacklist program that blocks certain websites, or a whitelist program where you choose which websites they can use. At MakeUseOf, many of us have kids and all of us used to be kids, so we’re here to help too! We have an article highlighting 10 kid-friendly search engines 10 Search Engines For Kids That Help Out Parents With Safe Browsing 10 Search Engines For Kids That Help Out Parents With Safe Browsing Read More . Yaara Lancet has a list of safe e-mail apps for kids Keep Your Kids Safe With These Excellent Email Apps For Kids Keep Your Kids Safe With These Excellent Email Apps For Kids Any kid who knows how to use a computer can easily get and use an email account. If those email accounts are unsupervised, it can be rather disquieting for the parents, who have no idea... Read More . Tim Lenahan looked into sites that help educate you and your kids about Internet safety 5 Sites That Promote Internet Safety For Kids 5 Sites That Promote Internet Safety For Kids Read More . That’s a great start to good conversations! If your kids are a little younger, say single digits, start them with some fun games that help teach Internet safety 6 Internet Safety Games To Help Kids Become Cyber Smart 6 Internet Safety Games To Help Kids Become Cyber Smart Digital education is not only about learning how to program or use a software; it’s also a lot about knowing the who the villain among the bits and bytes could be. With the age of... Read More , put together by Saikat Basu. In the age of smartphones, tablets, and phablets, thank goodness Yaara has found an app to help our young ones enjoy Android devices Create A Kid-Friendly Homescreen That Will Keep Your Phone Safe & Your Kids Entertained [Android] Create A Kid-Friendly Homescreen That Will Keep Your Phone Safe & Your Kids Entertained [Android] Although I don’t yet have kids of my own, I was recently introduced to the world of children through my niece. As any good tech blogger would, I tested numerous Android games on her, and... Read More , but keep them out of accidental trouble. If there’s an app for Android, there must be more like it for iPads and iPhones!

Work with the School, Authorities, and Media

Many schools have a Code of Conduct or similar guide. Check it out to see what their stance is on abuse online and offline. If it doesn’t include the online component, work with the school to get it included with specifics about how such instances will be dealt with. Make it a fair playing ground for everyone. Check your school’s Internet Conduct and Usage guidelines. If they don’t have one, work with them to develop one and show them what can be done to limit access to sites that kids may very well get themselves in trouble using. Many schools have little or no IT staff to implement and maintain these systems. Why not volunteer to help?

Take the time to write a letter to your local newspaper, radio, or television station. This is a hot topic right now, so take advantage of that to get the media talking about Internet safety, bullying, and abuse. This is a proactive way to make the media work for you and your kids. Point them to resources from your school, police, or the Internet in general. Why wouldn’t they do a story where all the work has been done for them? If you find yourself in a situation like Cassidy’s, think about possibly using the media to draw attention to the abuse and neglect. Rehtaeh Parsons’ Dad did that with a Facebook post and the story became viral. Local authorities were all of a sudden more helpful and mindful of the problem.

Anonymous brought world wide attention, and pressure, to the R.C.M.P. and Crown Prosecutor’s Office who previously did nothing to help Rehtaeh Parsons’ daughter.

After this video was released, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter got involved, and so did Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. While Stephen Harper may not have been fully aware of this story before he saw the video, Premier Darrell Dexter certainly was.

The Take-Away

Parents, we do the best we can with what we’ve got. Kids, your parents want the best for you even if you think they’re just old-fashioned and too strict. Work together and use the tools that are available. Bad things will still happen, but they might not be this bad. If you listen to the kids — and kids, listen to Mom and Dad — then you can get through the bad things in one piece. Adults in the community, stop being afraid to stand up for others, or eventually no one will stand up for you either. Be firm, be fair, be respectful. We are all in this world together, for such a short time. We really all do play on the same team in life. Let’s be there for each other.

Image Credits: Bullying as Abuse via Shutterstock, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil via gfairchild on Flickr, Abused Girl via Shutterstock, Abused Girl Silenced via Shuttersock, Boy Being Bullied via Shutterstock, Mom and Daughter on Internet via Shutterstock.

  1. Cyberbullying Canada
    July 28, 2013 at 1:47 am

    In the report Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age, on December 12, 2012

    Many complained of the difficulty of getting online search engines and social networks to remove cyberbullying content - without compelling GOOGLE through legislation to remove cyberbullying links from all its search engines and financially supporting and profiting from cyberbullying sites - cyberbullying will not stop.

    Read more at http://chn.ge/1bw7P8P

    • Guy M
      July 29, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Good to see someone is trying to change that. Although Google doesn't host the content, there is still a social responsibility to respond to legitimate take-down requests, and to remove links to that kind of content.

  2. Ronny
    July 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Great article, and well done to Cassidy and her parents for standing up for what's right. I would like to second the comments about parents communicating with their kids - I work in emergency services, and often have conversations with parents whose children get into trouble. It is saddening how often the response to questions such as 'who are their friends' or 'where are their favourite places to go' are answered with 'I don't know.' Always always keep talking to your kids, always be interested.

    • Guy M
      July 5, 2013 at 7:32 pm

      Thank you for that Ronny. Your kids might think you're being intrusive, but you better get them over that idea. Learn how to ask open ended questions, not yes/no questions. That opens the lines much better.

      If they really won't talk to you, there is nothing wrong with discipline/teaching by making them not hide in their rooms and doing stuff with the family. Oddly enough, they start to like it!

  3. dej
    June 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    History doesn't end here. It's not a deadlock, things didn't start here, it's a process and of course the kids who go crazy and kill people or themselves Weren't bullied... i this girl did something crazy it wouldn't be because she was bullied, we'd scratch our heads and wonder... Why? I think it's time to seriously review the problems of bureaucracies and Administrative "Law". We all know how great they are because they "save money" , but perhaps in the longer term they just shove costs around till they land on people who can't fight back and are therefore destroyed or go "mad", for surely kids love getting away from all the Rule(s) they face... other kids admire them so when they do so and berating others is sooo Adult... Killing and random sex are too.

  4. telzeyamberdon
    June 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    This is not really a news article written by a journalist, it's an essay, one that is very effectively designed to tug at the heart and change behavior. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but if it were a true news article, I believe it would have been much more effective.

    In a true journalistic news article, the reporter would have named names: perhaps not necessarily the names of the children involved, but the teacher(s), the family name of the parents of the child who created the Facebook page, the principal and other school officials, the specific names of the police who handled (mis-handled?) the case. The fact that the bully's family is influential in that "small western town" is hammered home by repetition, but what is the town's name and who are these influential people? Dates should have been nailed down, facts ought to have been stated with authority. I want to know who was involved and what they did, who should be held accountable. It's as if the author is carefully shielding the wrong-doers from public scrutiny.

    I suppose it's fair to say that that was not the point of the essay, the point was to educate and thereby modify social behavior via an emotional appeal, but I came away a little annoyed at the tantalizing bits I was shown with little hard-news back-up.

    • Guy McDowell
      June 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      You're right. It isn't a news article - it's a cautionary story with some hard-earned advice. When it was all happening I would have loved to have made it a real news story, but no one was willing to touch it then.

      At this point, to bring up names and dates would only drop Cassidy back into the middle of something she already survived. Success really is the best revenge.

    • GeekMom
      June 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      How come you're not using your real name, on the internet to bring attention to yourself? So that you can show that unless you read the real names in National Inquirer you don't think that it is real. I am very proud of my daughter for not becoming a statistic or a victim. What as a family we were trying to show is how ( without getting on a soap box) with love, support and honesty, suicide isn't even an option. I believe that someday you will get to read her name in this story, when she herself writes it.

  5. NullOp
    June 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Schools are useless!!! Really! Schools have no interest in anything outside the usual routine. They always neglect to punish the guilty but never fail to punish the victim! My oldest son was victimized by teachers and the school. They are totally and completely useless in every sense of the word! They empower/facilitate/enable bullies. The teachers are often bullies themselves. Their basic line is, "Oh, you're not in education so you're wrong". Schools, teachers, Boards of Education are, for the most part, worthless!

    • Guy McDowell
      June 27, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      To rephrase a line from Bill Hicks - If I'm wrong, and you're a teacher, then teach me so I know!

      The original Bill Hicks line was that some Christians at his show didn't like what he was saying. He replied, "You're a Christian. Forgive me!"

  6. Alan
    June 26, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Thank you for for an amazing and important article, and I'm very glad to hear Cassidy made it through her ordeal, many do not. :( As a parent this is my greatest fear for our daughter. In fact it is a major reason that I never wanted kids, but things happen and now we have a beautiful 2 1/2 year old little girl, that so far thinks the world is a happy safe place, and that people are always nice to one-another, and I would give every thing I have, EVERYTHING, for her to always feel that way. :( And I am scared to death that she will have to deal with these kinds of situations at some point in her life. It's true, people have to stop turning a blind eye to things like this, it has to stop!! And unfortunately it usually happens to the best kids, I assume many times because the other kids are jealous...either way, I'm not sure exactly when it began, but at some point society started to treat the criminals like victims and the victims like criminals. They whine about the rights of the criminal, while simultaneously stripping the victim of every right they have. So all we end up with are more and more criminals who never get punished for their crimes and victims who never see justice and worse yet get punished for "allowing" something bad to happen to them... I am from the US, and you are right I would have sued everyone involved and pressed charges against anyone I could, and I am normally against most lawsuits. Would it do any good? Who knows with people the way they are, I wonder, but maybe it would give us enough money to move and make a new start...homeschooling is looking better and better... Anyway, people I beg you, do everything you can to put a stop to bullying when you see it, it will go a long way towards making the world a better place for everyone to live, the bullies will learn that they can't treat people that way without repercussions, and the wonderful beautiful souls of this world will remain that way and make the world a better place because of it. I will save this article and read it with my daughter in a few years, so she will learn early about bullying and it's effects and things to avoid, and what can be done, and that she can always come to us if she needs anything. Thank you again. And Jasray, your attitude is appalling, put yourself in Cassidy's shoes for just a minute, you are young, bright shy precious child who has not yet been ruined by this world, and all of the sudden because you were put in a position you should not have been put in by an adult you thought you could trust, all of your so called friends are telling you they hate you, and want you dead, you have your whole world (at least you think so at that age because it is all you know) ripped out from under you, and no-one wants to do anything about it, You feel like there is no way out and that there is nothing left in this life for you but misery. Try feeling that for just a moment... Then imagine that being stretched out to weeks, months, and sometimes years. :(

  7. DianeLC
    June 26, 2013 at 4:22 am

    Parents are responsible for their kids behaviour - at home, in school, in public, AND online. Kids need to have consequences for their actions. Parents need to be diligent about enforcing the values they have taught their kids.

    Bullying has been happening in schools since I was a kid (and was targeted myself). I didn't understand why it was happening at the time, but realized later that those kids who bullied or banded together to bully had issues with self-esteem until they got that false rush of superiority and power in targeting a lone individual.

    Social Media and the internet has made it easy for kids to think they can get away with it without penalties. Facebook has a rule about kids not having accounts - I think they have to be 15 or 16, and Facebook obviously cannot monitor everyone. But the rule is there for many reasons and parents need to be aware.

    In the school system - in my area anyway - they have held campaigns in the schools against bullying. I am not aware if they are following through to monitor how well that is getting the message out. But along with the campaign, there needs to be follow through with consequences in the schools.

    The teacher who took part in putting up that Facebook page needs to be suspended - a serious error in judgement there which questions their ability to teach.

    The school, and school system needs to take a stand and stick to it.

    The more kids and parents who take a stand, the sooner apathy about bullying in society will be unacceptable.

    • Guy McDowell
      June 26, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      I agree fully.

      Right or wrong though, the Teachers' Union will defend the teacher against the school board and the parents. So, most school board employees just roll over and give up.

      The only times I had seen the Teachers' Union or school board concede to anyone was to groups with even more power, such as the various Aboriginal groups in the area.

  8. Terence Hale
    June 26, 2013 at 4:01 am

    Hi,
    Cyber Bullying Unmasked – The Tragic Case Of Cassidy. Child-Bullying, the age old problem of the “law of the school play-ground” has a profound effect in Cyber Bullying as “words have time”.

  9. Rick
    June 26, 2013 at 2:06 am

    To add some levity to a serious situation.... Every school should have a Veronica Mars... she puts school bullies in their place:)

    • Guy McDowell
      June 26, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      Amen!

  10. Wayne
    June 26, 2013 at 12:07 am

    Thank you for a very well written article - full of down-to-earth, sensible thoughts.

  11. Robert Backlund
    June 25, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    I have often thought about this kind of abuse of the internet along with many other much less important issues. The biggest problem that I see is that the Internet and its use has come upon us like a freight train out of control and the tragic results is that the laws dealing with the Internet are either woefully inadequate out of date of just plain none existent in probably every country that has large segments of their populations who regularly use the internet. The sad truth is that this situation is not going to change until we as parents, grandparents, and just plain ordinary citizens ban together in what ever country we live in and demand, shame and what ever it takes to force our governments to write some responsible laws and then to enforce them without exception! When it comes to these tragic cyber bullying cases the penalties should be very harsh, and when it concerns kids also directed at the parents with substantial fines at least 10,000 dollars to start with. A large part of the blame rests with parents who do nothing to supervise their children's activities. Also remember (and I am also talking to myself here) every time we point fingers at various people around us we all have 3 fingers pointing back at us. We must remember that much of what shapes our children's attitudes is first gotten from their parents, are we always tolerant of people who are different that ourselves? Or do we sometimes tell crass jokes aimed at someone based on race, religion or simply the persons interest. We all need to have zero tolerance for this in ourselves as well as our children. I am glad to hear that Cassidy is doing so well today, however had this same set of circumstances happened to someone who struggles with depression and there are too many of us out there, it could have resulted in a suicide. If this happened would society see the bullies as what they would really have been murders? Probably not:(

    • Guy McDowell
      June 26, 2013 at 12:38 am

      I agree that there should be some way that parents are held accountable for the criminal actions of their children. Unfortunately, I think those parents would most just turn around and beat their kids or worse. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

      • Devil's Trumpet
        June 26, 2013 at 1:21 am

        The sad truth.

      • Sheldon
        June 26, 2013 at 2:36 am

        Indeed. Monkey see, monkey do. I sometimes think that, in general, we are a greedy, stupid and brutal species.

        As to education, the Canadian system seems designed to squash any sense of creativity out of a child and instill in them all that is required of good employees who always pay their taxes, obey the rules and never rock the boat. Can we really be all that surprised at the response to Cassidy from those inside the school system since we are directly responsible for allowing such a culture of malaise?

        • Guy McDowell
          June 26, 2013 at 1:21 pm

          I agree. We don't really have education, we simply have citizen training. The funny thing is that the teachers really do believe that they are teaching kids to think critically. I've yet to see the teacher that can think critically, let alone objectively.

  12. Ellen Odza
    June 25, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Thanks for this. Cyberbullying is a huge problem today and one that is not really fully understood. Many adults today still think of bullying as something that is not a significant problem or a "right of passage" and believe kids should "suck it up" and "deal with it." That was not a good response to bullying before the Internet and it certainly is not a good response now! But this attitude, which is often pervasive among educators, makes it extremely difficult to stop cyberbullying; if the school will not get involved, it's almost impossible to prevent.

    An National Crime Prevention Council report in 2011 stated that almost half of all teens in the US are affected by cyberbullying; other research has found similar results. Almost 20% of kids admit to having bullied someone online. NCPC.org has a lot of resources on this topic targeted at kids, teens, parents, and educators.

    • Guy McDowell
      June 26, 2013 at 12:36 am

      A sad statistic was recently released in Nova Scotia. 11% of teenagers have made plans for suicide. 8% have tried. That's staggering and sickening.

  13. Joe
    June 25, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    How about my freedom of expression?
    I have right to express my hatred towards any one!
    I have right to tell people around me I don't like them.
    I have right to say NO!

    Also here you have told only one side of the medal. I want to hear the other side of the story! She was too much above avagre , and because of that people didn't liked her. Nobody likes smart ass or a Internet TROLL. This is well known fact!

    This is the same bull shit as 9/11 and terrorists - it was an inside job! Only terrorist out there is USA. Look at report of united nations - USA gave Syria opposition chemical weapons. It is in official report.

    This Cassidy case is used by the government to legalize censoring of Internet and PRISM spying by NSA. How convenient timing of this article...

    • Guy McDowell
      June 26, 2013 at 1:20 pm

      There is no right to express hatred, especially in Canada. We have many laws regarding hate speech. The right to freedom of speech should be balanced by the right to congregate peacefully, and the right to an education. It should also be balanced by the responsibilities of exercising a right.

      She really wasn't that much above average. There were kids that had better grades and were even better athletes. The issue was sparked by a system that dumped its responsibilities on to kids.

      Troll food provided by Guy.

    • Alan C
      June 27, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      So hatred based on jealousy of someone being better than you is ok? Very very sad indeed. Though it is usually how it goes, because you aren't good enough you have to make yourself feel better by treating the other person poorly, because it is much easier than working hard to be as good as that person. It is a definite sign of true inner weakness and lack of self esteem to be a bully. Also really having a lot of hatred and not liking lots of people, is usually a sign of some sort of inner demons, possibly from abuse. I hope you can come to terms with your emotions and can have a happy life with less anger and hatred in it. :(

  14. Dee Wheat
    June 25, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    It's almost always what I call "the golden children" who start this nonsense, secure in the knowledge that daddy and mommy are going to prevent any consequence being enacted upon their little darling. It doesn't stop at graduation, either. At my kid's high school it was the girls basketball coach who was married to a girl he got pregnant while she was a student and continued to openly date students after that.....the son of one of the school board members who not only was openly dating students but also taught with his Blockbuster card. Apparently "Eddie Murphy Raw" is appropriate fifth grade social studies material. These two examples were a mere scratch on the surface of what was going on there, and no one but me thought it was unacceptable. It took me three years of going to every single school board meeting to get a rule on the books that school employees dating students would be disciplined. Both of these male teachers were born, bred, and inbred in this one tiny area. Oh, and there was her math teacher who told me not to teach her how to do math, because she could reach the correct answers without pencil and paper before he did with them.

    As soon as I started this, my kid became a target of the "golden children". It continued until she graduated. Oddly, it's these very same people who now, almost seven years later, want to be her best friend. She tells them to go piss up a rope, thank goodness.

    But yes, this kind of thing is more common than you might think, and can start very, very early. It also is not confined only to students. Teachers frequently not only ignore it, but even join in as this child's teacher did, and I almost think the "anti-bullying" courses simply give them more ideas of what to do to make their target's life even more miserable.

  15. Devil's Trumpet
    June 25, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    No surprise by the attitude of the teacher,most are left-wing bullies themselves.I question the need for "Student Advisors",teachers are paid to be in the classroom period.Just what was the teacher busy doing for up to an hour at a time that they couldn't do at any other time,having a coffee in the teachers lounge?
    As for the police,they know who the powerful families are within their communities that are politically connected and the cops are fearful of repercussions from the political elite.
    And the Human Rights Commission(s) have proved time and time again their left wing,racist bias under section 13 and should have been dismantled years ago,this pseudo-court serves no function that the courts cannot be doing and should be in the first place.

    • Guy McDowell
      June 26, 2013 at 12:34 am

      I agree about the whole 'Student Advisor' thing. There are better ways to give leadership roles and practice.

      • Devil's Trumpet
        June 26, 2013 at 1:12 am

        Unfortunately, the North American system is no longer run for the benefit of the student or society,parents input is unwanted and ignored by so-called educators.
        The parents were wise to move their child from the school.Parents who make issues at their child's school risk their child becoming a target of vindictive,bullying teachers for the rest of their academic life in the public system including the siblings of that child.Principals and school boards are intimidated by the teachers union to the point that they become a hinderance rather than a help.

  16. Jim
    June 25, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    This also shows how dumb the idea is of schools trying to turn selected students into little mini enforcers of the rules even. All that does is make them either jerks who enjoy bossing around the other kids or targets of the kids who now see them as the enemy. Teachers and administrators should enforce their own discipline and not dump it on some kid.

  17. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    June 25, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I'm really mad. What kind of school is that? The boy's parents should be ashamed, but on top of all I can't forgive that teacher. She clearly don't deserve to be a teacher, or doing anything in education setting at all. Glad to hear Cassidy's parents are wise and open, because I know there are a lot of kids who don't even trust their parents. She might've joined the countless others in suicide attempt if no one tries to be her support.
    This whole case is so wrong on so many levels I don't know where to begin. On the bright side, I think this is a good article and you attached sound advices at the end. I hope whoever read this page could use the information to play their part on fighting against cyber bullying.

  18. Jonen
    June 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I dont want to break the air of seriousness in this article, but when i read "Talk With Your Parents Or An Adult You Trust", i imagined a man in his thirties call his mom and complain that somebody on youtube had insulted him.

    up to that point i thought the article was targeted to adults like most of makeuseof.com. (not saying kids shouldn`t use the page, but they are usually not the target audience)

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      June 25, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      I think I've seen a webcomic about that :)
      Regarding target audience, you can always share the page to social network of your own choice, where kids and adults alike could read this page and make use of the advices.

    • Guy McDowell
      June 26, 2013 at 12:33 am

      Okay, thinking of a 30 year-old going to his parents about a YouTube insult is pretty funny. Even still, we all need someone to talk with. Even a 30 year-old can still get good counsel from his parents.

      Glad you liked the article. :)

  19. Jaypee Cruz
    June 25, 2013 at 6:09 am

    worth reading

  20. Junil Maharjan
    June 25, 2013 at 5:27 am

    stories like these really shows how bad we are as a species who claim to be the forefront of all the species. this is a sad truth that is happening everywhere in the world. the story may be of one person but reflects the trend that needs to be stopped and needs stricter rules by all the parties involved.

    • Lavender
      June 25, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      I went through what Cassidy went through way back in the pre-FB era (THANK CHRIST). I went through it from age 7 to 15. I was THE bottom of the totem pole. No other outcast -- and there were a few -- was lower than me. I suffered torment and cruelty not just at school, but anywhere I ran into classmates, which was everywhere, 7/365.

      It permanently changed who I am, and what I became. I, too, learned not to easily give my trust to just anyone. In my adulthood, I also learned that, in reality, High School never ends. But I have to disagree with the starting statement, "Kids can be cruel. Almost as cruel as so-called grown-ups." I've NEVER experienced the viciousness from normal, non-criminal adults that I experienced from so-called "normal, non-criminal" children. Period.

      What saved me? My mother finally put me in a Catholic school where I discovered people who LOVED me. And I'm PROTESTANT. I've remained eternally grateful to those wonderful classmates and Nuns who probably never realized: THEY SAVED MY LIFE through their Christian love and kindness.

      Prayer DOES work, and Christ's love IS real. I know -- prayer and Jesus' love exhibited through His people saved me.

      • Lisa Santika Onggrid
        June 25, 2013 at 7:20 pm

        I wasn't the most popular student at school either, but I've never suffered that much. Thank you for sharing your story. I feel like I've taken everything for granted while there are a lot of people out there struggling to live. Glad to hear you've a good life now.

      • Guy McDowell
        June 26, 2013 at 12:31 am

        Christ's love was not evident in the local Catholic school, either. As the daughter of an unwed mother, she was not welcomed. Just saying, no church or deity has cornered the market on love.

        Which is the greater evil? Doing mean things, as kids often do, or being indifferent as an adult who has the ability to stop the mean kids? The harm done by being indifferent makes the kid getting picked on a victim. It also makes the kid doing the harassment a victim as well - they don't get taught or held accountable, so they can't become a better person. Finally, the adult who ignores it all harms themselves by letting their conscience rot.

  21. dragonmouth
    June 24, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    In many cases the "putative authorities", for reason known only to themselves, do not want to take the necessary steps to put a swift and effective end to a situation such as this. They seems to think that it is only a case of "kids will be kids". Had that happened in the US, everybody who abdicated their responsibility would have been sued for all they are worth and then some.

  22. Bob Constans
    June 24, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Makes me SO angry at the System - kids being thoughtlessly damaged, Hopefully one day she will have shaken off ALL the effects and achieve her fullest potential of awesomeness.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      June 25, 2013 at 7:23 pm

      You know, between this and several things I've always loathed about school, I think those who do homeschooling might have more valid points than I thought.

  23. jasray
    June 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Mistake #1 = Cassidy made a Facebook page and actually followed Facebook comments. As a family, we don't go there by choice--it's trash.

    Mistake #2 = A teacher is irresponsible enough to place a 13 year old girl in charge of a class for up to one hour. I teach at a high school. Teachers are not allowed out of the room for more than five minutes; if the time needs to be longer, we must find a teacher (not a child) to take charge of the class.

    Mistake #3 = Cassidy now feels she is a "victim" and will carry that label with her for years. As Jack Canfield says, "I am 100% responsible." The parents should be saying the same thing. Why the attempt to shift the blame to another entity? (Sort of sounds like the Garden of Eden story.)

    Mistake #4 = IT Department failure. The IT Director needs to follow the CIPA
    (Child Internet Protection Act) rules; obviously he/she isn't because the students are accessing Facebook at school. My gosh, I wonder where else they go.

    Mistake #5 = Naivte. "What is, is more important than what should be." The cyber-world and this place called Earth isn't the most welcoming planet in the Universe.

    Maybe Cassidy will learn that she has the "right" to do a lot of things--but a lot of things come with a disastrous consequence.

    I think I'll take my summer vacation in Pakistan--it's my right (and my death warrant).

    • null
      June 24, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      Huh? Seriously?
      Mistake #1 not taking bulling seriously.
      Mistake #2 see mistake #1

      So she should have just sucked it up huh? What in your opinion did the girl do wrong that should have invited the kid to make her life hell? You teach at a high school and don't sound like you have sympathy for bulling victims. I don't get it.

      • Ryan Dube
        June 26, 2013 at 2:48 am

        I know right? Blame the victim....geez.

    • Guy McDowell
      June 24, 2013 at 9:12 pm

      If you are indeed a teacher, I'm very sorry for your students. But then again, it's 100% their fault they walked into your classroom.

      Cassidy is no longer a victim. Did you even read the rest of the article? She does not pity herself. She went on and resumed her life and is even stronger mentally and physically today.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      June 25, 2013 at 7:16 pm

      I don't know what your problem is, but really, can you be that unsympathetic?
      Mistake #1: Yes, I think Facebook is stupid and I don't have one either, but a lot of children have accounts on that site. Is it wrong that she got herself an account in social networking site?
      Mistake #2: It's actually done in several places to teach children a thing or two about responsibility. Speaking from experience, I agree that it isn't so effective. Students often refuse to deem their peers as some sort of authority figure, so in this case Cassidy is simply the wrong person in the wrong time.
      Mistake #3: Her parents tried to comfort their daughter. They collected evidences and reported the case to responsible parties. I don't see why they should take the blame.
      Mistake #4: I'm with you for this one.
      Mistake #5: Sadly, yes. Naivete is not the best trait to have when you go online.
      Cassidy did her responsibilities and it wasn't like she asked for trouble. That isn't a good example. She couldn't possibly know watching her class for an hour could lead to such problem.

    • Devil's Trumpet
      June 26, 2013 at 1:18 am

      This person is a shining example of what's wrong with the education system or as one protest sign by teachers read,"educhsion".
      One can only hope that he/she does in fact choose to vacate to Pakistan.

    • Jade
      June 26, 2013 at 4:09 am

      Sorry Jasray, I know Jack Canfield and he would never tell Cassidy that she was responsible for this situation. That would just compound the pain she has already suffered. Why don't you ask Jack? He'll quickly set you straight.

      I believe the people who do nothing about bullying were/are probably bullies themselves. They are incapable of having empathic feelings for others.

      Even those of us who have never experienced bullying can understand how painful it must be and stand up for those that are being bullied.

      Having no idea where you teach, I'm just thankful that my children aren't in high school and have no chance of getting you for a teacher. We don't need people like you teaching our children. I'm sure this is just a small sampling of the egregious comments that spew from your mouth during the school year. I agree, why don't you just stay in Pakistan.

    • Jade
      June 26, 2013 at 4:46 am

      On a positive note, I was surprised to see this story as the feature for
      MakeUseOf. I love your site. It is first class, and I look forward to almost everything you feature. I would probably have passed on reading this article if it had been on a news site, because bullying stories make me sad and angry. But because it was on MakeUseOf, I had to see what it was about. I'm glad I did and I'm happy that it wasn't another suicide story.

      This was a good story and it was good to see that the majority of people who commented were intelligent enough to see who the victim was and who the responsible parties were. Just as Jasray is overwhelmingly in the minority here, I believe the people who bully and those who condone bullying are, and always will be, in the minority.

      I think you should start another site for human interest stories like this. I would definitely subscribe to the newsletter.

      • Guy McDowell
        June 26, 2013 at 1:27 pm

        Thank you! Cassidy and her folks are pretty happy about being able to use their experience to help others.

  24. Kay Fritz
    June 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    A very good article, well researched and covering all bases. Thank you indeed for taking the time to write this article!

    • alikhan2100
      June 26, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      agree with you .... i lost for sometime in the article.

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