Meadow Lake resident calls for stop to cyberbullying

by Phil Abroziak

“I just want it stopped.”

These were the words of a concerned Meadow Lake woman last week upon discovering a Twitter account aimed at insulting and degrading local teenagers. Although the account has since been terminated, the resident, who requested her identity remain anonymous, said whoever was responsible for @meadowhatepage is either ignorant or uncaring when it comes to the seriousness of cyberbullying.

“There were about 18 posts that featured photos of Meadow Lake teens copied from their personal sites and posted on this Twitter page,” the resident explained. “The messages (accompanying the photos) were made to appear as though the people in the photos were saying hateful things about themselves. This is a form of online bullying and people need to be made aware of it – bullying has to stop.”

The majority of posts targeted young women, but at least one involved a young male. The Meadow Lake RCMP were contacted with regard to the site and a preliminary investigation is underway.

“People need to watch what they say and do on the Internet because they could still face criminal code charges – the main ones being criminal harassment and uttering threats,” said Meadow Lake RCMP Cpl. Natasha Szpakowski. “The old saying about sticks and stones is not true. As a community, there should be public outcry over something like this.”

In response to the negativity caused by the hate page,  a new Twitter account titled @meadowlovepage cropped up late last week.

It’s designed to provide words of encouragement to the people who were targeted. The anonymous resident, however, isn’t sure this will be enough, adding people need to realize what could happen if hateful messages continue to be spread through a separate Twitter account or some other online format.

“One of the (hate) messages said a young lady should kill herself because she is native while another claimed a certain teenage girl had STDs,” the resident continued. “I think this sort of behaviour gets out of control and some people don’t realize how much it hurts. If a particular teenager is already feeling down, this will only make them feel worse. I’m disgusted with it.”
Carpenter High School principal Larry Waterman said he was made aware of the controversial Twitter account last week.

“We did notify the police (about the Twitter account), as this is a form of bullying,” Waterman said. “People seem to think they’re anonymous because they’re using the Internet. They’re not. They can be tracked.”

Waterman also said the school system continues to play an important role in educating its students about online etiquette and the dangers associated with harassment of any kind.

“We try to educate them, but there will always be kids who don’t buy into it, who feel disconnected and who lash out in this way.” he said. “But, it’s not right – it’s a form of slander.”

The principal also explained there isn’t much the school can do in terms of punishing students who do commit such acts, especially if it occurs outside school hours.

“I don’t suspend kids for getting into a fight at a party or for getting drunk in the bush on the weekend,” he said. “It’s hard to police – it’s sort of out of our realm and becomes an RCMP issue.”

In the meantime, CHS plans to continue promoting good values amongst its students.

“The education component does seem to work because there have been incidents where one student will tell another not to post certain things online because it wouldn’t be right,” he said. “So, it has been somewhat effective.”

Meanwhile, the anonymous resident pointed out there have been several national news stories in recent months about cyberbullying resulting in young people taking their own lives.

“There have been so many incidents where cyberbullying has led to suicide,” she said. “I don’t want that to happen in Meadow Lake and I’m not going to be one to sit around and not do anything about it. Life is hard enough as it is – nobody needs this kind of crap.”

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