Editorial: We can do more to stop cyber bullies

I clearly remember the bullies we had at school.

They would call other students names, deface their lockers, block their paths in the corridor, spread horrible rumours about them, exclude them from activities, and even resort to physical violence.

They basically made life hell for their victims.

Fast forward the years and bullying remains a major problem in our schools and communities - and technology has made matters worse.

The emergence of cyber bullying means bullies can target others through texting, emails, Facebook and Twitter. It extends their reach and means they can strike almost anywhere, any time.

But could we, as a society, do more to combat the problem? Of course we could.

Thankfully, the Law Commission has taken a lead in addressing the issue with a hard-hitting proposal.

It wants a new, powerful tribunal to fight cyber bullying. This tribunal would have the power to name and shame offenders and silence cyber bullies by issuing "takedown" orders.

The commission also recommends a new criminal offence for publishing offensive comments on Facebook and Twitter and sending hurtful text messages.

These measures are in a ministerial briefing issued for Justice Minister Judith Collins as part of a government crackdown on internet nuisances.

In today's edition, Bay principals have endorsed the move, saying they are in favour of tough measures to crack down on cyber bullies. They see merit in tackling a problem that can have severe consequences.

One bullied teenager, who told this paper naming and shaming should have a powerful impact on deterring would-be bullies, also talked about knowing people who have taken their own lives because they were bullied.

Such cases are downright shameful.

This paper has published articles before on students complaining they have been bullied and felt not enough has been done about it.

The Government has showed strong interest in addressing bullying. Prime Minister John Key wants people talking about the issue and Ms Collins welcomes the commission's recommendations.

Bullying at a young age needs to be stopped promptly and education is a big part of this.

Older children and adults who are bullies and use technology to deliberately hurt others are cowards who should know better.

Sometimes education is not enough. Sometimes a stronger response is needed.

Everyone has a duty to deter and stop bullying wherever possible and ensure there are appropriate consequences.

The Government has a duty to act on these recommendations and help make a difference to victims.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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