Thank you very much.
The Canadian Teachers' Federation, CTF, is the national voice for teachers in Canada on education and related social issues. Our membership includes teacher organizations in every province and territory, representing 220,000 teachers across the country. We appreciate the opportunity to present this submission to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage as it debates Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act.
Next to parents, who best understands the impact media violence has on our young? Teachers often stand as witness to the physical and psychological fallout from media violence.
With your permission, we will speak to what we know and what we see that is needed. We will speak to more than just media violence by way of TV; we will speak to our concerns about bullying and violence that has the potential to or does directly affect our students, our schools, and teachers, through all entertainment and communications media.
What we know. On November 19, 2003, we released the results of a landmark national survey of 5,756 students in grades 3 to 10--and these would be eight-year-olds to 15-year-olds--entitled, “Kids' Take on Media”. This survey was made possible by a Government of Canada grant through the Department of Justice's National Crime Prevention Centre.
Among results were the following: 48% of Canadian kids aged eight to 15 have their own TV--and this was in 2003--and 35% have their own VCR; 75% of the kids in grades 7 to 10 watch restricted movies at home; in grade 7, 25% of children have personally rented an R-rated video; and 60% of boys in grades 3 to 6 play video and computer games almost every day.
One of the top choices for both francophone and anglophone boys in grades 3 to 6--and this would be eight-year-olds to 11-year-olds--is Grand Theft Auto, an ultraviolent action game aimed at mature audiences, which involves murder, bludgeoning, and prostitution. In grades 3 to 6, roughly 30% of kids claim they have never had any adult input about what TV shows they can watch; by grade 6 it rises to 50%, and by grade 8 it is 60%.
With game playing, adult involvement is as follows: in grades 3 to 4, the top figure for parental involvement never rises above 50%; by grade 7, 75% of adults never tell children what video or computer games they can or cannot play.
Another finding was that 51% of kids in grades 7 to 10 stated they had witnessed imitation or some violent act from a movie or TV show. Violent acts can include imitating a dangerous stunt; it does not necessarily mean aggressive violence directed against another person.
Some of the most important findings: the “Kids' Take on Media” study shows that kids and adolescents whose parents supervise their TV viewing and who discuss violence, racism, and sexism in the media are more likely to be aware of the negative impact of media violence. Many children, however, are on their own.
In response to this survey, the Canadian Teachers' Federation, with partners like Media Awareness Network, the Canadian School Boards Association, and the Canadian Home and School Federation, developed a tips bulletin for parents and a teachers' study activity guide.
Some of the other findings and more recent data from teachers we see in the 2005 Canadian Teachers' Federation's national teachers poll: 78% of teachers reported witnessing a student physically assaulting and/or intimidating another student; 75% of teachers reported witnessing a student verbally abusing another student.
In the 2006 Canadian Teachers' Federation's national issues in education poll, the public was asked what they consider serious problems in community schools. Tied for first as most serious were bullying and violence: 76% said “very or somewhat serious” and 44% said “very serious”.
In November 2007, in a release of the most comprehensive survey of teachers ever conducted in Canada, entitled “School Teachers in Canada: Context, Profile, and Work”, the following was found.
In response to the question, “To what extent do the following hinder the accomplishment of your duties when considering various school concerns?”, the second highest response of teachers, 51%, was intimidation or bullying among students.
Now we come to the most recent form of threat and potential violence by way of a communications medium, one that we have targeted as a major component of this whole issue, and that is cyber-bullying.
Cyber-bullying is described as “the use of information and communication technologies, such as e-mail, cellphone, pager, text messages, instant messaging, and websites to support deliberately repeated and hostile behaviour that is intended to harm others. That was a definition by Bill Belsey, teacher and founder of bullying.org.
Cathy Wing of the Media Awareness Network calls it an online culture of cruelty.
This is an issue closely linked to violence in television broadcasting, as many of the same assumptions on context and outcomes are relevant in promoting an ambivalence towards the use of violence in our daily lives.
In July 2007, at the Canadian Teachers' Federation annual general meeting in Toronto, a mandate was given to our organization to address the rapidly emerging issue and determine what we know about it.
An extensive study of Canadian youth—5,200 children in grades 4 through 11—conducted between 2003 and 2005 by the Media Awareness Network and entitled “Young Canadians in a Wired World” found that 94% go online at home; 86% have their own e-mail accounts; 89% of grade 4 students play games online; 34% of students in grades 7 to 11 report being bullied, while 2% of those reported talk about being severely harmed; 59% report assuming another identity on the Internet, and of those, 17% say they pretended to be someone else because “I can act mean to people and not get into trouble”.
The most recent survey on the topic, whose initial findings were released February 2008 and which involved 2,000 students in Toronto in grades 6 and 7 and grades 10 and 11, was conducted by Associate Professor Faye Mishna from the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. The findings include the following: 21% reported being cyber-bullied, 35% reported cyber-bullying others, 46% have a computer in their bedroom, 33% have given a password to a friend, 28% have watched someone else being bullied online, and 67% of parents don't supervise Internet use.
Finally, results from the recent Canadian Teachers' Federation “National Issues in Education” poll conducted in February 2008 reveal that 85% of the public are familiar with the term “cyber-bullying”; 34% indicate that they were aware of students in their community school being cyber-bullied; 91% believe that parents should become knowledgeable and responsible in monitoring their children's activities with the Internet and electronic communication devices; 71% believe that the development of legislation that better protects students and teachers from cyber-bullying would be somewhat or very effective in preventing cyber-bullying; 56% believe holding Internet service providers and wireless telephone providers accountable, if their services are used for cyber-bullying, would be somewhat or very effective; and 70% believe school boards should hold students accountable, even if the cyber-bullying originates from outside the school.
We cannot ignore the obvious. It is clear that for teenagers the web has become a virtual hangout. For instance, it was reported in MCT Business News in May 2007 that in the U.S. more than 70% of girls aged 15 to 17 use social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook.
Our children are adopting and adapting to the new communication technology. With the new opportunities, however, come new negative realities. Cyber-bullying combines the devastating psychological effects of both verbal and social bullying. The impact, however, can be even more profound, because the child who is being victimized often doesn't know who's doing the harassing, and many people can covertly witness or join in the bullying.
We're here today to speak not only to the issue of violence on TV but to the threats, bullying, and violence through all communications media. We include in this the threat of cyber-bullying. Therefore, we are here today to speak not only to the issue of violence on TV but also to cyber-bullying.
Bill C-327 may or may not be a particularly good tool to address this issue; however, something must be done. The CTF is addressing the issue of media violence, and particularly cyber-bullying, in two ways: first, using opportunities to educate the public, parents, teachers, children, school boards, and governments on the issue; and second, searching for ways in which the regulatory framework can further serve to protect everybody from the negative impact of violence and the inappropriate use of communication technology.
If we extend these strategies to this discussion, we would recommend two things: education and protection. Education means funding support for continued research into bullying and violence through any media as well as the development of resources and supports to assist students, teachers, and parents in appropriate responses to perceived and realized media threats and violence. Protection, our second recommendation, includes the development of more appropriate classification and monitoring mechanisms on the part of federal regulatory bodies in light of the development of even more violent and reprehensible video games, amendments to the Criminal Code that make the law more effective in controlling the capabilities of emerging technology, and the development of a national-international legal collaborative framework to address the hosting and delivery of offensive, illegal, inappropriate materials from outside our country, i.e., the inter-service providers.