Young people at risk
Nova Scotia premier says parents should help address bullying at home
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