WESTVILLE – Cyberbullying is an unfortunate reality for some children in Pictou County and across the country according to Sgt. Howie Dunbar of Westville Police Service.
The police teamed up with Walter Duggan Consolidated School to enlist the help of a robot to educate students on what cyberbullying is, how to use the Internet safely and what to do when you are a victim of cyberbullying or see it happening to someone.
“There is some really nasty stuff going on, especially on the female side of the house, they seem to be predominant (victims),” Dunbar said. “We’ve had one recently where a number of people were hacking a girl here and making nasty allegations… and this is a ten-year-old.”
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation describes cyberbullying on its website as the use of email, cellphones, text messages, instant messaging, and social networking websites to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviours intended to harm others.
The students at Walter Duggan Consolidated walked into a lightshow in their gym Monday morning as the Cyber Internet Safety Society prepared its digital and interactive presentation that includes Cyber, the robot that battles cyberbullying.
The Cyber Internet Safety Society is a non-profit organization developed to bring the presentation, titled “Cyber Programmed for Safety,” to schools across the province. The aim of the presentation is to develop an education program framework and to assist schools in deterring bullying behaviour. It was originally a Truro Police program before the society was formed.
In the presentation, the robot Cyber is introduced to the students as a hero of the Internet that stops cyberbullying and gives the students tips on how to deal with cyberbullies. Cyber has a nemesis called Hacks who interrupts the presentation. The students were called on to defeat Hacks the cyberbully by chanting, “no more bullying.”
Barry Mingo, executive director of the Cyber Internet Safety Society, said the presentation is the focus of a Mount Saint Vincent University study, which is looking at how effective the presentation is in getting the “no more bullying” message across to children.
“We’re working out a one-year program that would see Cyber visit once and then hopefully be part of the curriculum of the school, but that’s all in the works,” Mingo added.
Dunbar said Westville and Stellarton police are working in partnership with this society in implementing its program in G.R. Saunders and Walter Duggan Consolidated School on top of the DARE program, which aims to deter children from getting involved with drugs, alcohol, gangs and violence.
“We have an officer from Stellarton who is away in St. John’s, N.L., taking the DARE training so in the next two to three weeks, the DARE program will start at G.R. Saunders,” Dunbar said. “We’re very excited about this.”
Vice principal at Walter Duggan, Lee Anne Cullen-Rudolph, was the one who initially approached the police about bringing Cyber the robot to the school. She said the school’s efforts to educate students about cyberbullying will continue.
“For us it’s an ongoing process here. We want everyone to feel safe and secure in their school. Anything we can do to make this school a better climate and the more information we can give them, the better,” she said. “It’s a continuing and evolving process for us. It doesn’t stop with one talk, with one presentation.”
Dunbar said that cyberbullying is difficult to enforce, as the bully is often anonymous.
“But, we do track them through different processes that we use,” he said.