Yorkton Regional High School celebrated the "Day of Pink" April 9 with a screening of the film Cyber Bullying and panel discussion for the entire student body.
Day of Pink is a Red Cross initiative to raise awareness of bullying and promote safe and respectful school and work environments.
The 23-minute, 2012 documentary was produced by Alberta's BearPaw Media Productions and was originally previewed with a similar discussion panel at the Yorkton Public Library as part of the Yorkton Film Festival's Open Cinema series March 11.
It features interviews with Canadian bullying expert Dr. Shaheen Shariff of McGill University and follows the experiences of four youths to explore "how technology and changes in communication have affected how kids relate to each other in a world where hurtful information can become public in an instant."
The film underscores the critical aspect that for today's youth online identity can be as, if not more, important as their personal reputation.
Shariff points out in the documentary that social media exacerbates the problem. Online bullies have a degree of anonymity that bolsters bravado and an attack can quickly expand to hundreds or thousands of others piling on. Because of the buffer of the Internet, victims are easily dehumanized. It becomes more about the bully building himself up than tearing down the victim, but to the person on the receiving end, the attack can be just as real and violent as a schoolyard brawl.
The panel included Dennis Nesseth, teacher and counselor; Lana Stanek-Sebastian, who teachers a digital citizenship class; student mentors Logan Ernest and Sierra Unick; Shelly Westberg, guidance counselor; and Cpl. Darren Letson, the school's RCMP liaison.
The panel discussed strategies for preempting and dealing with online bullying, the most important of which is breaking the silence.
"Saying something is always the first step," Ernest said. "I dealt with a lot of bullying when I was a kid and I really wish I would have said something when I was a kid."
Randy Goulden, YFF executive director, said she was happy the festival was able to provide the school with the film in support of a good cause.
"I was very pleased with the event," she said. "I was very pleased to be part of it."
Aside from promoting bullying awareness, Goulden was happy to be able to fulfill one of the main goals of the festival, which is growing the audience for Canadian cinema.
"We had a lot of young people watching Canadian film," she said.