Atlantic ministers tackle online safety for girls

Dave Stewart
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Community Services and Seniors Minister Valerie Docherty

The public education campaign around online safety for girls now includes tips on dealing with hypersexualization.

The Atlantic ministers responsible for the Status of Women met in Charlottetown on Tuesday to discuss the issue before holding a press conference to announce that information has been added to the www.cybersafegirl.ca website.

“We need to get the word out to young girls and women . . . that you don’t have to be all of these specific things that the world seems to want us to be,’’ said Community Services and Seniors Minister Valerie Docherty, who’s portfolio includes Status of Women on P.E.I.

Hypersexualization is girls being treated or depicted as sexual objects. It also means sexuality is inappropriately imposed on girls through media, marketing or products directed at them that encourages them to act in adult sexual ways.

“Although hypersexualization can be an uncomfortable topic, it is important that we begin this conversation and provide a credible source for information,’’ said Docherty.

The website has information and tips for girls, families, educators and the community at-large to better understand the issue.

Girls are flooded by all types of hypersexual images of girls and women through various forms of the media. This includes television, music videos, music lyrics, movies, magazines, video games, the Internet, social media and advertising.

The message at Tuesday’s press conference was that these images, of airbrushed thin women, can affect how girls view themselves and others, and how society perceives them.

Docherty says it’s important to be aware of the messages and their potentially negative effects.

Marie-Claude Blais, minister responsible for women’s equality in New Brunswick, says the portrayal of young girls in media platforms is troubling.

“They are portrayed as sex objects to the point where the image becomes the norm and girls are lost behind the image they see,’’ Blais said. “Sexualized images of girls and women have become a consumer product benefiting many industries. They have become so common that we have become desensitized to them.’’

Joan Shea, minister responsible for the Status of Women in Newfoundland and Labrador, said three new facts sheets, in both English and French, now appear on the cybersafegirl.ca website.

“These fact sheets were developed from wide review and have been vetted through government departments, community stakeholders and women’s organizations,’’ Shea said.

Shea pointed to research numbers in 2009 that indicate 87 per cent of Canadians think advertising is too focused on young women being sexy and not enough on their abilities and intelligence.

“Research also linked images of airbrushed women to depression, low self-esteem and poor eating habits.’’

Joanne Bernard, minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, pointed at the tragic circumstances around Rehtaeh Parsons as an example of what social media is capable of.

Parsons attempted suicide at her home in Dartmouth, N.S., last year which led to a coma and the decision to take her off life support a few days later. Her death has been attributed to cyber bullying.

“Social media played a devastating role,’’ Bernard said.

Cybersafegirl.ca was launched in Atlantic Canada on Oct. 11, 2012 to commemorate the first International Day of the Girl about how girls can be safer online.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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Recent comments

  • Islander
    May 28, 2014 - 07:49

    I do not fully agree with Don but he does have a point to many men and boys are been accused and been used unfairly by the system today and he is right all women or girls have to do is point a finger and men and boys they do not have a leg to stand on. This needs to be equal to both genders.

  • Quiet Observer
    May 28, 2014 - 06:42

    This is a good idea. However, I agree that there needs to be comparable sites for males. Males are bashed, flaunted and made look stupid on a regular basis in the media, but in everyone's minds that is OK. In today's society, both sexes need to be treated equally. However, males have be drilled by government, society and women's groups to accept poor and degrading treatment as being OK. I wonder what kind of attitudes this leaves males to develop when they are constantly told they are supposed to accept degrading and insulting media as being OK? Ever think about that? It is time for an Advisory Council on the Status of Men so everyone treated equally. The discrimination against men is the not the solution to the needs to of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. But, that is what it has come to today.

  • D.E.K.
    May 27, 2014 - 19:21

    Grow up Don ! The Minister deserves credit for getting such a program off the ground and all the way to the United Nations . I know there is much to be critical about these days ,but please not this effort -kudos to her.

  • Billy P
    May 27, 2014 - 18:32

    Don grow up! I agree this is a really good step in the right direction however boys really need to be included and taught how to treat females and that its not cool to bash and brag about what you and another female or male for that matter did behind close doors!

    • don
      May 27, 2014 - 20:51

      it is a 2 way street. females knows the law is protecting them so they can kick the crap out of a guy and all she has to say is he pushed me even if he did not he is in jail. and she is lol all the way. how many guys are killed,beaten by females each year that YOU do not know about? so if a female comes o you and stabs you or has a gun and shoots you. i guess you will say nothing and take it? or say please do it again? wimps.

  • Islander
    May 27, 2014 - 14:58

    I agree with this article but if some young girls do not want this happening to them stay off Face Book posing in sexual flirting ways has anyone ever looked on Face Book at some of the teenage girls? I am a mother and have been shown by other young people some of these young girls on Face Book posing and it just tears the heart out of me they think the comments are complimenting them when in reality it is belittling them.

    • concerned
      May 27, 2014 - 15:27

      that's the purpose of this training... to teach them the difference.

  • Islandwoman
    May 27, 2014 - 14:11

    "Hypersexualization refers to girls and women that are treated or depicted as sexual objects when it comes to social media and the Internet."......young girls are not just hypersexualizing themselves in a vacuum. Where's the education campaign for boys on slut-shaming, namecalling, etc.?

  • Garth Staples
    May 27, 2014 - 13:08

    Is there a corresponding site for men?

  • concerned
    May 27, 2014 - 12:27

    this is a wonderful initiative, but I feel it should also include boys... although girls are targeted more frequently, boys are also targeted. Also, I think boys also should be educated about hypersexualization... it takes support of both genders to stop the problem... both genders need to be educated.

  • don
    May 27, 2014 - 12:04

    i am sure the minister is staying at the motel in ch'town that way she will not be late for the meetings? i hope she does not order any movies.