Cyberbullying: How bad is it really?

On April 7, Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off life-support after attempting to take her own life a few days earlier.

Two 18-year-old men face charges in Nova Scotia in the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, the girl who took her own life after she was bullied online. One man was charged with two counts of distributing child pornography, and the other was charged with making and distributing child pornography. Police stated the evidence did not support sexual assault charges against the two. The two men are due in youth court on August  15th. They cannot be identified because they were minors at the time of the alleged offenses.

Police arrested the pair at 8 a.m. at at their respective homes following an investigation by the RCMP/Halifax Regional Police Criminal Investigation Division. According to Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh’s mother, four boys sexually assaulted her daughter when she was 15. The young teen was then said to have been mocked by classmates, enduring relentless harassment and humiliation after a photo of the attack was circulated at school and on social media.

On April 7th, Rehtaeh was taken off life-support after attempting to take her own life a few days earlier. Halifax police and RCMP decided to reopen her case in mid-April after her death, saying that new and credible information had been brought forward.

The arrests come one day after the implementation of new, more strict legislation against cyber-bullying in Nova Scotia. The new legislation gives victims the ability to sue alleged cyberbullies or their parents, if those accused are minors.”We hope that the new cyberbullying legislation and the charges laid today will send a strong message that this behaviour will not be tolerated,” said Halifax police Chief Jean-Michel Blais.

Police said they had never interviewed any of the four accused before Thursday. They said one of the boys came to the station once, but didn’t offer any information.The initial investigation, concluded in November 2012, is going to be reviewed.”We will co-operate fully in the review of this investigation,” Blais said. “It is only through looking at ourselves, and how we do things, that we can improve and better serve our community.”

After the arrest, Rehtaeh’s mother stated, “I felt a little bit of relief, just to say, finally — like I hope — they keep saying they want to tell their side of the story, but they have never given a statement. The police have never spoken to them in all this time. So at least, here is your chance. Tell your side of the story”. Rehtaeh’s father, Glen Canning, said the news is bittersweet. He said, “After everything we’ve been through, you’re almost in a place where you’re not expecting anything at all and then all of a sudden it’s here. To hear those words, ‘We’ve made two arrests,’ I felt like crying, I felt like running. At the same time you feel sad because my daughter is never going to know that sense of justice. She’ll never know that. I will be able to say the right people cared enough to make changes. I will be able to say that people were held accountable for their actions. I will be able to say this is closed, but I will never be able to say justice was served in this case because it simply was not and it’s not something you can undo. She’s gone. My daughter is gone. She waited such a long time to hear that phone call I got today and it just came way too late for her.”

What do you think the proper punishment should be for cyberbullying? Should legislatures make it a crime all on its own? Should the men be charged with murder, considering their actions led to her death? Should the students that mocked her be charged? Should the men be charged as minors or adults?

Article and Picture Source: CBCNEWS


  1. Although here it was too late for Rehtaeh, hopefully the new legislation addressing cyberbullying in Nova Scotia will allow the victims and victims’ families to feel as though justice was served, and also deter future offenders.

    While I am glad that the Halifax police and RCMP are taking these crimes seriously, as they decided to reopen Rehtaeh’s case, it is just extremely unfortunate that she did not get the justice that she deserved. Cyberbullying is a critical issue of increasing importance as more and more of our communication takes place online, especially with younger generations.

    According to the Canadian Press, the new legislation could mean that cyberbullies can get their phones taken away and their victims can sue them or seek protection orders. Hopefully it will not take another death for school administrators begin taking accusations of cyberbullying more seriously and to learn how to stop the destructive behavior.

  2. This is such a sad and unfortunate story. My heart breaks for Rehtaeh’s parents who have lost their daughter to cyberbullying- something that could have been prevented, or stopped and properly addressed legally but action was taken too late to save Rehtaeh. At least the authorities are now bringing Rehtaeh’s bullies to justice by passing stricter legislation and arresting two of the teens. It will be interesting to see how the cases of these two teens play out and if the other two teens are ever arrested.

    Figuring out what the proper punishment for cyberbullying is a difficult task. There are so many factors that need to be considered and weighed carefully because cyberbullying cases usually involve children or young teens. I do not believe the teens should be charged with murder but their punishment should reflect the fact that their cruel behavior did lead Rehtaeh to take her own life.

  3. Punishment for cyberbullying should be similar to other cyber crimes that have elicited similar, albeit more severe, abuse. Cyber crimes, such as hacking, warrant a ban from internet use or at the least monitored browsing, in which software is installed on the computer that logs a users actions. Any other crimes committed while on the internet would either warrant prison sentences, fines or both.

    While cyberbullying is no better than any other types of bullying, I don’t think that the government is fully equipped to handle this epidemic. A lot of cyberbullying is perpetuated on social media, however, there are some social media sites that are not as accessible as the mainstream social media sites, e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter; which are more mainstream, as opposed to 4chan, Reddit, and many other forum cites that are not. If cyberbullying occurs on one of these sites it will be relatively easy to point out the perpetrator through profile searches and connecting with the site administrators, but other sites and forums are not as receptive.

    Anonymity is still a big part of the internet and people that want to abuse others through the internet can set up false IP addresses, fake profiles, go through proxy servers and can cause all types of damages. Legislatures that put time and effort into this type of legislation are being proactive, but a lot more money is going to be needed to protect those who can be harmed. The government may not be equipped financially to track people who are cyberbullying and it may result in a lost cause. In theory, it is a great idea, but practically it might not work as well as we think it should.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *