Cyberbullying laws urged for all provinces
Dalhousie law professor says other provinces should follow Nova Scotia's lead
The man who headed a Nova Scotia taskforce on bullying and cyberbullying is encouraging all provincial governments to bring in similar legislation.
Dalhousie University law professor Wayne MacKay believes the new Cyber-Safety Act, which give victims the ability to sue alleged cyberbullies or their parents, if those accused are minors, could have made a difference in the Rehtaeh Parsons case.
The Cole Harbour teenager tried to take her own life in April and was taken off life support a few days later.
According to Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh's mother, four boys sexually assaulted her daughter when she was 15.
Rehtaeh was then said to have been mocked by classmates, enduring relentless harassment and humiliation after a photo of the attack was circulated at school and on social media.
Two 18-year-old men are facing child pornography-related charges in the case.
MacKay says the fact that there are now criminal and civil consequences will have an impact on both parents and children.
"For example, parents are going to be, I presume, a little more observant, recognizing that they might be liable if they're not watching what their children are doing."
MacKay says other provinces should enact similar legislation to stop what he calls a national problem.
"Unfortunately, it seems to take a tragedy like the Rehtaeh Parsons case, hopefully something less than that, before the legislators are willing to act as quickly and as strongly as this."
Time to focus on prevention and education
MacKay says more attention is still needed when it comes to education and prevention, which should be part of a comprehensive strategy.
"We're making good progress on the legal consequences but there does still need to be a lot of attention on prevention and education."
MacKay says parents often don't know what to do when it comes to monitoring their children and preventing cyberbullying.
"A lot of parents could legitimately say, 'I want to do the right thing, but I don't know what to do … I don't really understand social media, so what is reasonable supervision? Should I be seizing my kid's cell phone every night and looking at all their text messages?'"