Ban 'bully' teen from social media, says online expert

The chair of Nova Scotia's cyberbullying task force supports a crown prosecutor's move to have a 15 year old girl banned from using social media.

Wayne McKay says "it's a totally sensible thing to do"

The chairman of Nova Scotia's cyberbullying task force supports a Crown prosecutor's move to have a 15-year-old girl banned  from using social media. 

Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University, said Steve Drake is doing the right thing.

"I think it's a totally sensible thing to do to try and protect the victim," said MacKay.

"Short of cutting off somebody who is a persistent bully or cyberbully from some degree of access to social media, it's almost impossible to control what they're doing. You can't really protect the victim unless this kind of [ban] happens."

Assault video posted on Facebook

The 15-year-old girl pleaded guilty to a brutal assault that was filmed and posted on Facebook. The girl, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was charged after a female student with autism was punched and kicked at Sherwood Park Education Centre in Sydney earlier this year.

At a sentencing hearing Drake asked the judge to ban the girl from using all social media including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He and police called her "the bully of all bullies."

MacKay believes cutting someone off from social media is an extreme move given how central it is to some people's lives, but he said it is necessary in some cases.

"The question that always comes up in charter terms is: Is it a reasonable limit on her free speech to do this? Increasingly I guess people are saying yes it is. That it is a reasonable limit in some cases."

Attitudes about bullying and cyberbullying appear to be changing, MacKay said. He said there's a much greater acknowledgement that any form of bullying is a problem.

"That message is getting through at all levels. We have provincial legislation, we have federal legislation and now in this case we have creative Crown prosecutors trying to build on that in matters such as sentencing. So I think the message is getting through that this is a big problem and we have to take it very seriously."

Could set a precedent

If the judge in this case follows the Crown's suggestion and bans the girl from using social media there could be a huge impact on other cyberbullying cases. MacKay said sentencing is individual so it wouldn't become a default sentence. 

"But I think certainly it's setting a precedent to others who could look to this kind of thing, if the judge grants it, and say in a similar case they're going to ask for restrictions like that as well," said MacKay.

Provincial court Judge David Ryan will decide how the girl will be sentenced later this month.