Panel of experts discuss bullying and how Albertans can stand up to the problem

In the midst of national bullying awareness week, a panel of experts came together in Edmonton, Alta. to discuss cyber-bullying, online safety and support resources for Albertans.

The two-hour presentation was streamed live to people all over Alberta. Viewers were able to watch the panel live from their computers and select mobile devices.

“We’ve come together tonight with shared values and a common purpose. Tonight Jim Johannsson, director community consultation at Telus, said the scary thing about the Internet is that “there is no one in charge.” It is always evolving and is essential in some people’s lives. The Internet is not constrained by political or ecological boundaries.

Photo courtesy of Jim Johannssonwe turn the mic to you,” Alberta human services minister Dave Hancock said.

The panel opened with a video from Premier Alison Redford, who was talking with students from Parkview school in Edmonton, Alta. about bullying. Redford ended by saying that Albertans can make a difference by standing up to bullying.

Matthew Johnson, director of education at MediaSmarts, was the first speaker. He said that cyber-bullying has more of an impact because it can be permanent.

“We tend to associate bullying with social networks,” he said, “but it is more.” It happens through video games, and other sources on the web.

Johnson said that youth underestimate the impact of cyber-bullying and think it is the norm. They often refer to bullying as “fighting” or “drama.”

Panelist Katie Kitschke said that sexual assault and bullying have increased with the advent of technology. 

Tips and facts from the panelists during question period:

• You can trade your Facebook passwords with your kids. It creates mutual trust and helps model behavior. — Katie Kitschke

• Be an “active bystander.” Let people who are getting bullied know you have their back. It can save a life.  Steven Bizuns

• Don’t monitor your kids to the point the feel they aren’t trusted. “It is important they understand that you have their back rather than looking over their shoulder.” — Matthew Johnson

• People often bully because they have been bullied. They can also be working out their anger.  Matthew Johnson

• Teach your kids that anger and stress are normal. Guide them towards healthy ways to express these feelings.  Katie Kitschke

• This year, the average age that kids start going online is four years old. Teach them early on about the risks and behaviors that come with Internet usage.  Jim Johannsson

“Historically a lot of the bullying has been left to the schools to deal with. It is not just a school issue, it is a society issue,” the public education director of SAFFRON Centre Ltd. said.

Kitsche said that when you give your child technology, you also need to explain to them how to use it responsibly.

Teach them Internet integrity, Kitsche said, which is the ethics and responsibility that come with Internet usage.

Jim Johannsson, director community consultation at Telus, added that because roughly 100 per cent of Albertans have access to the Internet, “we’ve got an entire generation that can’t imagine the world without it.”

Steven Bizuns, an Alberta Prevention of Bullying Youth Committee member, was the youngest of the panel.

He said that cyber-bullying is easier because you don’t have to look at the person you are bringing down or even leave your home. You can’t see how they feel and you can forget what you said after you click send.

“Technology is a privilege and a gift, and it is being abused,” he said.

After the panelists finished, viewers were able to send in their own questions and have them answered live by the experts.

There were over 1,116 sites across Alberta and the world, and over 140 questions and comments. The archived webcast video will be available Nov. 20 at b-free.ca

You can continue the discussion during November at speakout.alberta.ca

dleonard@cjournal.ca

What measures do you take to protect yourself from online bullying? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.