NORTH Shore school districts say they're doing whatever they can to make sure students aren't victimized or behaving inappropriately online.
Educators made the comments in the wake of the suicide of 15year-old Amanda Todd, a Coquitlam girl who took her own life after facing years of bullying and online humiliation.
"As a district we've been concerned about students' online activities for a number of years. There's a real blending of what happens online and the real world," said Gary Kern, director of instruction for technology and innovation for the West Vancouver school district.
Both teachers and students have felt the impact of Todd's death since a video she posted on YouTube last month documenting how she was bullied went viral online.
Kern said the immediacy and prevalence of the video has meant Todd's experience "feels so close and so near to all of us" although most West Vancouver students didn't know the teen.
Kern said the school district's approach to digital literacy is to teach kids appropriate guidelines for online behaviour - in a safe environment.
Both North and West Vancouver school districts have policies making it clear that any kind of bullying is unacceptable, including inappropriate behaviour online.
But they acknowledge that can be difficult to enforce.
"A lot of this does happen outside of school hours," said Brad Baker, district administrator for North Vancouver's safe and caring schools program. With online chat groups and social media, "the form of bullying has changed quite a bit," he said.
When cases of cyber bullying come to the attention of administrators, they try to work with both the victim and perpetrator, said Baker. Often bullies are people who have difficulties of their own, he said.
Police will only get involved in rare cases. In those instances - where the perpetrator can be identified and the behaviour is repeated, police can recommend charges of criminal harassment, mischief or threatening.
But proving who is responsible can be difficult.
"Someone may say I lost my cellphone at a party and two days later someone gave it back to me," said RCMP spokesman Cpl. Richard De Jong. "Meanwhile a bunch of text messages have gone out."
Denis Gagnon, a West Vancouver private investigator who sometimes works with families of bullying victims, says texts are often the preferred medium for teen cyber bullies because of their immediacy. It's not that unusual for kids to take a photo of someone drunk at a party, for instance, and immediately start circulating it, he said.
Jane Thornthwaite, MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour and former school board chair, said parents need learn about what their kids are doing online and to set an example themselves. Too often, both teens and adults pass on information online without considering if it's true or what the impact might be, she said.
Thornthwaite said she herself faced bullying in school.