Young peo­ple at risk

Nova Sco­tia premier says par­ents should help ad­dress bul­ly­ing at home

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC -

Nova Sco­tia’s premier said the re­sponse to a spate of Cape Breton teen sui­cides should ex­tend be­yond the class­room as tech­nol­ogy broad­ens the reach of bul­ly­ing.

Stephen McNeil said par­ents should ed­u­cate them­selves about how tech­nol­ogy can put young peo­ple at risk in the wake of the sui­cides of three teens, at least two of whom had been bul­lied.

“Of­ten­times, our ex­pe­ri­ence with th­ese de­vices is very dif­fer­ent than our chil­dren’s and the world that they’re liv­ing in,” said McNeil. “We need to ed­u­cate our­selves on how do we deal with that in a way that is not putting our kids at risk.”

The Nova Sco­tia gov­ern­ment has ac­cepted all of the rec­om­men­da­tions out­lined by a Dal­housie Univer­sity men­tal health ex­pert who was dis­patched to Cape Breton in late June fol­low­ing the sui­cides.

Dr. Stan Kutcher rec­om­mended a pro­vin­cial pol­icy be de­vel­oped to ad­dress stu­dents’ re­spon­si­ble use of per­sonal de­vices such as cell­phones on school grounds. But he said he didn’t know how such a regime could be ex­tended to when stu­dents are away from school - and a wider pub­lic dis­cus­sion needs to take place on where re­spon­si­bil­i­ties lie.

McNeil cited Kutcher’s find­ings while ad­dress­ing re­porters af­ter a cab­i­net meet­ing Thurs­day.

McNeil said so­cial me­dia has al­lowed the im­pacts of bul­ly­ing to con­tinue out­side school, and he en­cour­aged par­ents to help deal with the prob­lem at home.

“When I was young ... we could get away from it,” said McNeil. “Kids to­day can’t. They take it home through so­cial me­dia and all the as­pects as­so­ci­ated with that.”

He said there is no sin­gle cause that can ex­plain the chal­lenges some Cape Breton com­mu­ni­ties are fac­ing, but said so­cioe­co­nomic fac­tors may play a role.

Pro­vin­cial of­fi­cials have pledged to spend $192,000 boost­ing men­tal health sup­ports at the Cape Breton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board, which asked for more help in the wake of the sui­cides. The money would be used to hire two guid­ance coun­sel­lors and a so­cial worker at the board.

Justin Newell, a 13-year-old trans­gen­der boy from Cape Breton, took his own life June 3 af­ter be­ing bul­lied through so­cial me­dia.

Chris Royal, of North Syd­ney, N.S., spoke out in June fol­low­ing the death of his 13-year-old daugh­ter, Madi­son Wil­son. The girl took her own life on Fa­thers Day af­ter what her par­ents said was per­sis­tent ver­bal abuse at school and through so­cial me­dia.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to roll out its up­dated anti-cy­ber­bul­ly­ing leg­is­la­tion this fall.

The prov­ince’s pre­vi­ous Cy­ber-Safety Act, the first of its kind in Canada, was struck down in late 2015 af­ter the Nova Sco­tia Supreme Court ruled that it in­fringed on Char­ter rights.

The law was passed as part of the re­sponse to the death of 17-year-old Re­htaeh Par­sons - a Hal­i­fax-area girl who was bul­lied and died af­ter a sui­cide at­tempt.


Nova Sco­tia Premier Stephen McNeil

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