Cyber Bullying: The Negative Effects of this New Phenomenon - Ensuring the Act is Controlled in a Legal Manner

Cyber Bullying: The Negative Effects of this New Phenomenon - Ensuring the Act is Controlled in a Legal Manner

Cyber bullying is an act of maltreatment in any regards to an opposing individual, or group of persons who are regarded as inferior to the offender. The act of cyber bullying is a hostile behaviour of written threats and abuse, despite the fact that it is indirect. In the new era of technology, cyber bullying as a new phenomenon has resulted in negative effects that are detrimental and severely harmful for the victims impacted. As a result of cyber bullying, there are pros that ensure that the act is controlled in a legal manner and consequences are provided confirming punishable results; yet there still remain cons that hinder the consequences for any sort of punishment that the government and legal system must adapt to. The consideration on whether cyber bullying should be regarded as a more serious offense within the Federal government is suggested, proposing that, “everyone who engages in cyber bullying is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding $3,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.” Within this essay, the pros and cons will be presented about the suggested statement and proposing offers and the debating merits to the Federal government; which will aid in a more informed conclusion as to whether or not cyber bullying should be deemed as a guilty and punishable offence.

Cyber bullying, a term coined by Bill Besely, is defined as “the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others." It is a form of harassment and offensive remarks that can have detrimental affects on any victim. For the offender, it is a way to spread hatred and inflict harm indirectly. For the victims, it is much more than cruel remarks. It can destroy a persons dignity and shatter ones self-esteem. The results of cyber bullying can lead to behavioural defects that can affect a persons psyche, and impede the potentials for a positive well-being or relationship involving a partner, a friend or family, due to the victims inherent animosity, and can even result to suicide. An act that offends the fundamental morals of the people is defined as a crime, and therefore should be taken into account through punishable measurements by the law. According to Stats Canada, “The most common form of cyber-bullying involved receiving threatening or aggressive e-mails or instant messages, reported by 73% of victims.” According to the Ouimet committee, no behaviour or conduct should be considered criminal unless it results in a serious threat to society and cannot be dealt with by other means (lecture 4 notes). In such, there is reason for cyber bullying to be deemed as a serious threat on society because of the negative repercussions it withholds. However, if the punishments for cyber bullying are not instilled or widely regarded as a criminal act within the public, the tolerance for the act will not receive the critical recognition it deserves by the Federal government.

The act of physical assault withholds a more dominant and negative response within society. As a result, the legal system enforces a punishment that adheres to the Criminal Code and physical assault offenders receive the worthy consequences. However, under section 265 (1)(b) of the Criminal Code of Canada, the act of assault states, “he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose...” If the act of assault is defined as “an attempt to threaten by an act or a gesture,” then the act of cyber bullying is worthy of the same punishments and consequences as any other form of assault would deserve. In spite of that, the Smith Principle outlines that it is wrong to maintain laws that are not consistently enforced (lecture 4 notes). As a result, if the act of cyber bullying, as a form of assault or threatening act is defined within the Criminal Code, proper punishment should be enforced to protect society and the victims being affected in a verbal manner as well.

The intention to hurt, a sense of imbalance in size or power, the threat of further aggression, and the feelings of vulnerability and helplessness are all equally applicable to face-to-face bullying, and cyber bullying. Although physical bullying inflicts pain rather than threatens it, there is evidence to support that verbal bullying may have more of a negative long term effect. Therefore, with the negative and detrimental repercussions that result from cyber bullying, the Smith Principles outline that the criminal law should preserve public order and protect citizens from what is harmful and unlawful (lecture 4 notes). As a result of cyber bullying, victims have suffered on numerous levels, being mistreated, exploited, and personally humiliated. The offenders committing the crimes is the result of self violations, personal abomination or suicidal actions carried out by the victims. The law should punish for a guilty mind (lecture 4 notes), as outlined under the Smith Principles, but less concern is focused on the punishments for the cyber bullies than should be required. An issue that permits cyber bullying from being worthy of severe punishment is the costs of over-criminalization. One of the costs is sensationalism, which is the result of biases in news stories that can influence society. As a result, the media can dismiss certain instances of harmful cyber bullying as being disregarded solely on the basis of age, viewing the act of cyber bullying as just a ‘child-like phase.’ In such, the repercussions will not receive the significant acknowledgement for severity that it deserves and the reason for lawful measures to be enforced will not be regarded as imperative by society or further enacted through legal measures. In addition, the media can sensor what they choose and can portray what they deem imperative to address to the public regarding the matter, therefore limiting societal knowledge on the severity of the issue. In many instances, individuals in the public may perceive a physical act to be more impacting and disregard the written element of assault, since written words are not tangible and the significance can be perceived to be not as critical.

Furthermore, if individuals do not regard a severe crime, such as cyber bullying to be impacting for society, it creates a sense of injustice for the victims being harmed. As a result, if the victims require the attention of enforcement officers, or legal aid, to provide support and protection in hopes of prosecuting the offenders; the measures that may be enacted will not suffice; due to the fact that no further support from society on questioning the authorities decisions will be implemented. Therefore, justice for the victims will not be fulfilled. As stated in the Smith Principles, “the law must not be so uncertain that it is impossible for the ordinary person to know whether an act is prohibited or not” (lecture 4 notes). If that becomes the circumstance, the weight of a crime can never be recognized for what it is worth. Along with the causes of over-criminalization, financial concern is a contributing factor to the impeding reasons for detainment or prosecution of cyber bully offenders. Taxes are largely inconvenient within society, and if the consequences for cyber bullying are considered as imperative as they should be deemed, then further costs from the general public will be required. As a result, more officers and legal enforcement agents would be in demand, as well as more detainment centers and judicial sanctions to combat the offenders. The severity for cyber bullying as a criminal offense would promote huge costs disadvantages that would incur if it became an imperative law. Consequently, politicians neglect to regard the act of cyber bullying of further importance than needs to be addressed because of what they foster as needing more immediate attention; such as public health services. The Federal government cannot use the criminal law to “solve every issue and punish every mistake, therefore they must make use of their civil penalties the way they permit necessary.”

The debated propositions has brought upon an offer that the Federal government should take into account regarding the matter of cyber bullying. The act of cyber bullying is more than just a verbal harassment on a victim. It inflicts an internal pain that can lead to self loathing or physical torment. It is a psychological abuse that can destroy a persons well-being and leave permanent scars, even without administering physical injury. Society needs people in power to enforce laws and develop an awareness of the severity of cyber bullying and the psychological affects and impacts it has on so many. It is imperative that youth are educated on the topic of bullying, and the implications of physical abuse, as much as verbal taunting. The more educated that the generations to follow become, then perhaps the necessity to convict and prosecute the offenders will not be as prolific. Nonetheless, it is now that people must act upon the severity of cyber bullying so that the victims suffering can be relinquished of their pain and gain the justice that they deserve. In doing so, one way to address the matter is through the media. They must make a conscious and pivotal effort to provide insight and cover stories on the topic of cyber bullying to provide the public with concrete evidence that confirms the severity of the issue. If society can become aware of just how severe and horrific the results of cyber bullying can be on its victims, they will not be as negligent to the problem. If society can help promote the issue then perhaps the government can instill harsher penalties and punishments for the act of cyber bullying so the public can feel protected and those in power can ensure a safe and protective society, as promised.

Through debating the potential merits on the matter of cyber bullying, it is in my informed opinion that I support the idea that “everyone who engages in cyber bullying is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to a fine not exceeding $3,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.” More severe cases deserve a harsher punishment, but anyone who is an offender of the act should be punished nonetheless. It is society that requires the security and protection, and the government who promises to maintain it. Costly measures through increased taxes and other financial computes is a minor disadvantage concerning the overall security of citizens. If the outcome provides overall justice and equality within the legal system and protects the well-being of society, then such a sacrifice can and should be enforced. The justice system should carry out their duties to protect the rights of individual under the Criminal Code of Canada. Cyber bullying, despite its intangible affects, causes internal and psychological damage that leaves more than just a bruise, but a permanent scar that can last lifetime. The victims deserve to be recognized and are worthy of justice. If the law is instilled to preserve public order and protect citizens from what is harmful and unlawful, (lecture 4 notes) then it is in the duty of the law to protect the citizens and adapt the necessary changes to maintain a prosperous and safe society.


Criminal Law: Criminal Code of Canada (government document) online: Criminal Code of Canada

Cyberbullying (website) online: Cyberbullying

Des Butler & Sally Kift & Marilyn Campbell, "Cyber Bullying In Schools and the Law: Is There an Effective Means of Addressing the Power Imbalance?" (2009) 16(1) eLaw Journal:Murdock University Electronic Journal of Law 84.

Philippa Reid & Jeremy Monsen & Ian Rivers, “Psychology's contribution to understanding and managing bullying within schools” (2004) 20(3) Educational Psychology in Practice 241.

Sensationalism (wikisource) online: Wikipedia

The Heritage Foundation (website) online: Over Criminalized

Satistics Canada: Self-reported Internet victimization in Canada (Fact Sheet) online: Statistics Canada