of the Internet (D.C., 2010;
, 2001). If this is the case, there is an urgent need to raise earlyawareness in children about the limits of free expression, the impact of their actions on thosevictimized, and the risk of criminal records. This is especially important given that digital natives alsohave trouble distinguishing the lines between public and private spaces, often failing to realize thattheir online expressions could come back and haunt them (Mitchell, 2006).
Digital natives need to be alerted that when a physical, sexual or verbal assault is filmed andposted online, the individual is re-victimized every time it is viewed, saved, retrieved and redistributed.Educational programs need to “re-humanize” those at the receiving end of the bulling. Teens need toconsider that this could be their sister, their mother, brother - someone they love. Our research(Beran, Shariff et al, 2010) found that victimized individuals experience anger, physical injury, anxiety,eating problems and drug use. Children lose interest in learning and grades drop, or teens drop out ofschool altogether. Some experience extreme eating or sleeping patterns, or modify their appearancein desperate attempts to fit into peer groups. Others give up and stop socializing. Patchin and Hinduja(2010) report that 20 per cent of respondents in their study contemplated suicide (19.7% females and20.9% males); 19 per cent reported attempting suicide (17.9% of females and 20.2% males).Teachers are not immune to cyberbullying. Increasingly, students joke, gossip and spread rumoursabout unpopular teachers which can undermine their authority in the classroom and negatively impacttheir professional reputations, sense of professional worth, and ability to teach. This detracts allchildren from learning and creates a chilled environment in the classroom.
The Policy Vacuum:
The boundaries of legal responsibility and public versus private communicationare increasingly blurred in a rapidly evolving digital society that leaves an enormous public policyvacuum. North American courts have placed an onus on schools to provide a learning environmentthat is free of discrimination and harassment, conducive to learning. Courts have admonished someschools for fostering a “deliberately dangerous environment” by tacitly condoning bullying (
, 2001). Schools can legally intervene if on-line expression substantially ormaterially interferes with learning, or if the cyberbullying is perpetrated on school computers orwebsites (Servance, 2003). Most educators remain confused about the extent of their legalresponsibilities with schools, arguing that parents are responsible after school hours, while parentsargue that when it comes to cyberbullying, irrespective of the time, this remains a schoolresponsibility. Ironically, youth are expected to be accountable for their online behaviour and to knowthe legal risks. This is not realistic. Emerging legislation often assumes that youth are legally literate.But how can they be when the adults in their lives are largely ill informed in this regard? Feweducational programs inform children about the legal risks or encourage legal literacy because fewteacher preparation programs address legal issues. Hence, policy makers rightfully grapple with theneed to protect vulnerable children and teens from vicious attacks by peers given the increasednumber of school drop outs and suicides from cyberbullying. Not to be ignored however, is anemerging need to protect legally naive children and teens who engage in cyberbullying for fun, peerpressure, anger or provocation, from overzealous legislation and regulatory policies that fail to takeinto account their immaturity and lack of knowledge. Despite awareness campaigns and researchstudies that emphasize the need for contextual factors, many researchers continue to adopt a narrow