How technology has changed bullying
By: Annalee Grant
Reporter, Cranbrook Daily Townsman
Cyber bullying has arisen from the advent of technology quickly, and with
electronics becoming easier and less expensive to access, it is becoming more
Cranbrook RCMP Const. Lisa Schlatter has been working with Mount Baker Senior
Secondary students to bring a series of presentations to middle school students. Landon
Harvey and Catherine Cameron were two of the students who delivered the presentation
with Schlatter. Cyber bullying has been a hot topic, and Schlatter confirms it’s on the
“It’s becoming common,” she said. “It is not uncommon to receive a complaint like that
on a regular basis.”
Schlatter remembers when she was in school, there were no cell phones. She has watched
bullying change since becoming an RCMP officer. Cell phones have changed the way
kids project angry feelings towards one another.
“It can be totally anonymous,” Schlatter said.
Catherine agrees, laughing that as a kid she played with Tamagochi digital pet toys, not
cellphones. Now every kid has a cellphone and most of their communication is done
online or digitally from a young age.
Within cyber bullying is perhaps the darkest side of bullying that Schlatter
calls “sexting”, when a youth texts a nude or inappropriate photo to a peer. That person
could be a boyfriend or friend. Whether that image was sent with consent from the person
depicted or not, Schlatter warns that the consequences of having such a photo can be
“Basically, it’s child pornography,” she said.
Schlatter told the students at the middle school presentation that images sent through
phones have GPS information attached to them, which allow strangers to find out where
the image was taken. She talked about a girl in Calgary that sent a photo through her
phone, and a man was able to locate her at home. Luckily the girl safely handled the
situation, but the story shocked Landon and Catherine.
“That scared me – that just a few hours away that can happen,” Catherine said.
I had no idea that they can find you.”
Having a photo of a youth under the age of 18 is illegal, and violates Canada’s laws
against child pornography. Schlatter said that teens often don’t understand that what they
think is harmless, is actually putting them at huge risk.
Sexting can easily go sideways, and many teens don’t think about the future
consequences. What was sent as an innocent gesture of teen affection, can turn dark when
relationships end and the photo is passed around.
“They don’t realize how far reaching that is,” Schlatter said. “Once it’s out there, even if
you delete it, it’s never gone.”
If that image ends up online, Schlatter warns that their peers are not the only ones
“It’s not just kids their age looking, it’s people older,” Schlatter said.
And that’s where cyber-bullying can get really dangerous. What was meant to be a swipe
at a fellow student in the moment, can put them at risk for online predators, and can even
impact job interviews in the future. Potential employers could search a job applicant’s
name, and could come across the image.
“They’re going to see it too,” Schlatter warns. “That can alter an outcome of a job
interview or a school application.”
Schlatter agrees with Parkland Middle School principal Jason Tichauer who said that
students no longer expect privacy in this day and age, but Schlatter said they mistakenly
assume it ends with their peers.
Tichauer, who was previously a high school principal, has been lucky to not deal with
any cyber-bullying incidents since moving to Parkland. He remembers incidents in other
schools, though, involving sexual acts and fights being broadcast over the web for all to
“It can be absolutely devastating to people,” he said.
Tichauer believes children now have a different idea of what privacy means as social
media and the Internet have evolved.
“Kids now don’t seem to have an expectation of privacy,” he said.
When it comes to cyber-bullying, it’s an offence that is easy to track down, but not
always easy to remove from the public eye. Often rumours are published as truth, and the
victim’s reputation is tarnished for something they didn’t do.
“These are some of the easiest things for us to deal with in the office, because we have
written material,” Tichauer said. Having said that, Tichauer cautions parents to ignore
the impulse to hit delete, and keep any online material that can be construed as cyber-
Another aspect of cyber-bullying that Schlatter deals with is threats. Often youth speak or
type without reviewing what they have said. They usually regret it, but for the victim, it’s
too late to take it back.
“They don’t take that moment to breathe when they write it – they just send it,” Schlatter
It helps RCMP that cyber-bullying often leads a paper trail, but Schlatter doesn’t go as far
as to admit the investigations are easy.
“It’s just like any investigation – you have to look into everything,” she said.
When a bully is caught for sending online threats, they often backpedal and say they were
just joking, but the victim usually doesn’t see it that way.
“The person that receives it will take it quite seriously,” Schlatter said.
During their presentation, Catherine said they showed videos of rude text messages being
said verbally to someone’s face.
“Most of the things you say online you wouldn’t say face to face,” she said. “You don’t
have to worry about the reaction.”
When investigating serious claims of bullying, Schlatter said they have to carefully
decide if the incident is bullying, or if it crosses into criminal harassment.
Cyber-bullying is more common among girls, in Schlatter’s experience, but boys
sometimes venture into it as well.
“It happens with boys too, but girls being the social beings that they are, they’re more
verbally social,” she said.
Girls are also different in the way they hold onto negative feelings for a long time,
whereas boys can get over things quickly.
“The boys are more direct, they deal with it and move on, whereas the girls they hold on
to it,” Schlatter said.
Gordon Terrace Elementary School Principal Michelle Sartorel was shocked to discover
how many of her young students had cellphones when they were queried at the start of
this school year – and was even more shocked to find out a few of her students were
using iPods to make mean videos about other students.
Schlatter said anyone with access to the Internet can use the technology for cyber-
“If you have access to it, you can do it,” she said.
Schlatter urges youth to think about things they say before they type it online, because
what they think is harmless may not be construed that way to a victim.
“If you wouldn’t say it to that person’s face, why say it?”
Sartorel said parents need to be involved in their child’s online activities. She suggests
having any computers in a family area, and being aware if they are using Facebook –
especially if they are under 13, which is the minimum age users are supposed to be.