The internet was supposed to give us all new ways to connect and to access a limitless amount of information.
It did that, along with giving us as many cat photos as we could possibly need.
But the dark side of the internet has turned up as well. Early on, there were predictions of privacy issues and hackers, and those have come true. But very few people predicted the rise of cyberbullying and online harassment.
A new report from the province’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Representative for Children and Youth suggests a provincial strategy is needed to prevent and mitigate the effects of cyberbullying for B.C.’s young people.
“Children and youth spend so much of their lives online and on social media, which means cyberbullying has the potential to affect thousands of young lives in a variety of negative ways,” said representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
She’s not wrong. For those who haven’t been harassed online, it may be hard to understand how horrifying it can be.
Imagine if everywhere you went – in school or at work, on the street, in your home – random people walked up and insulted you in the vilest language, threatened you with rape or death, or told you to kill yourself.
We would never tolerate that kind of behaviour in the physical world.
But in many cases, those facing serious online harassment have to deal with those kinds of comments invading their lives through email, Facebook, Twitter, and the other social networking sites where we spend much of our day-to-day lives now.
The report points out that any response to online bullying has to be multifaceted.
One thing the report emphasizes is the need to teach young people how to behave online in ways that are respectful of others.
That sounds like a pretty good lesson for students across this province. And also for a lot of adults.
It might be too late for the older generation, but maybe the next generation can build a better online community.