EDITORIAL: Words can hurt

These days, we have so many different ways to communicate at our finger tips.

Want to talk to someone? You can call, text, message, tweet, e-mail, use an app… The list goes on.

Our level of connectivity is impressive. But, when someone is upset, it is easy to hide behind the keyboard.

Sometimes this means sending messages to your friends, reaching out when you need it. Sometimes it means taking your anger out on the Internet.

But, let’s never forget that the Internet isn’t so forgiving. Words that are typed out on a screen, whether or not they are deleted from the platform, can be saved for life. The people reading those words can be hurt, just like spoken words.

The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” has never been true. Words are hurtful. They sting, and they get right under your skin.

Online, it is easy to become a target of hurtful messages. Cyber bullying is a very real and new thing to us, and it happens when there is an imbalance of power, and/or where someone purposely and repeatedly says or does hurtful things to someone else, according to the RCMP.

When we’re falling into this online mecca, words can be said that may never be taken back.

This is why it is so important to think before you speak (or type).

Recently, I read that children as young as six are falling victim to cyber bullying. And after following that article down the rabbit hole, I read more and more about how children are affected by harmful actions on the Internet.

But it doesn’t stop there. Harmful variations of bullying can happen to any demographic, especially on the Internet.

Kids may be more of a victim of cyber bullying because those that are inflicting harm on others don’t have the same reticence as adults. As we grow, we learn acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. The consequences of cyber bullying at a young age can be extreme. People have been pushed to take their own lives, harm themselves, lash out at others, or harbour that horrible feeling forever.

Later in life, we call this behaviour by another name: Defamation of character, or libel. We have more tools at our finger tips to deal with these situations, and we are better equipped in life to respond in a calm, conscionable way.

I don’t know what the solution is to abolish cyber bullying once and for all, but schools are doing a good job at starting from the ground up, trying to erradicate that behaviour before it reaches people in their adult lives.

If you are being bullied in person or online, you can call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, or call the local RCMP 250-344-2221.

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