Tuesday, 20 October 2009 19:00 Frank Fourchalk Editorial Dept - Americas

The dictionary describes a "predator" as one who victimizes, plunders, or destroys. "Predators" are an unfortunate part of today's society. Driven by a multitude of motives, these dangerous individuals leave a long trail of grief for their victims and their families.

These creeps often take the form of thieves, burglars, vandals and muggers. But there's a different type of predator creating havoc among the young these days. What's disturbing is the young victims often know who's behind these deplorable acts.

That's because the predator generally attends the same school as the victim. I'm talking about classmates who've acquired a cruel streak and like to exercise it by inflicting emotion pain on fellow students.These sick individuals rely on computers and cell phones to execute their cowardly actions.

With "internet interaction" at an all time high, a student's repertoire of communication tools could include e-mails, text messaging, instant messaging, chat rooms or even photos from cell phones. These are the tools modern day bullies use to prey on their victims. This crime is known as "cyber-bullying".


"Cyber-bullying" is when a child, preteen or teen is harassed, humiliated, embarrassed, threatened, tormented or otherwise targeted by another child using interactive and digital technologies. In order to fall under the "Cyber-bullying" category, both sides must be minors. If an adult is involved the crime becomes "cyber-harassment" or "cyber-stalking".

So how can parents tell if their children are victims of "cyber-bullying?" Some signs to look for are behavioral changes, trouble sleeping, stomach and headaches, lack of appetite, crying for no apparent reason, lowered self-esteem, and a decrease in his or her school grades.

Although most "cyber space" interactions are positive, parents or guardians must realize their children could be subject to this type of crime. As a parent you need to keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your children. And young people need to know, if they're being harassed repeatedly and are fearful of their own safety or the safety of others, there are laws to protect them under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Keep in mind it's also a crime to write something that is designed to insult a person or injure their reputation by subjecting them to hatred, contempt or ridicule. This is known as "defamatory libel". A "cyber-bully" may also be violating the "Canadian Human Rights Act" if he or she spreads hate or discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation or disability.

Schools need to do their part in the fight against "Cyber-bulling" as well. They need to develop anti-bulling policies that are designed to promote a strong message throughout the school. These policies should outline the specific roles,responsibilities and procedures for staff, parents and community volunteers.

All adults and children need to be updated on the latest ways to deal with bullying incidents, code of conduct for students, response protocols and the consequences of bullying. Nobody has the right to strike fear into innocent children.

So if you fall under the category of "Cyber-bully", be forewarned, you are outnumbered, you will be caught and you will pay the consequences!

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