Ashley Vomacka

Cyber bullying? Time to Let it Die

Student filmmakers take to YouTube to tackle youth problem

Feb. 26 will mark the seventh anniversary of the first Pink Shirt Day.

The movement to end bullying started in 2007 when two Grade 12 students at Central Kings Rural High School in Nova Scotia, rallied behind a Grade 9 student, new to the school, who was being bullied simply for wearing a pink shirt.

The boys took it upon themselves to purchase and distribute 50 pink t-shirts; by their actions, a grass-roots movement was born.

The idea spread across Canada, as schools from Labrador to Lake Cowichan took up the cause. Locally, a group of talented students at Lake Cowichan School took the message to heart and decided to create a powerful short film.

The film shines a light on the sometimes anonymous and shadowed world of cyber-bullying; kids being harassed, ridiculed and tormented through social media sites, text messages and emails.

“The film we did was originally going to be entered in the Great American No-Bull Challenge, an online anti-bullying event, but we had some technical issues when we went to submit it,” said LCS Grade 11 student, Lauren Frost. “The idea behind it is close to our hearts and we thought it was an important message to get out.”

The five-minute short entitled Let it Die can be viewed on YouTube by searching “Lauren Frost cyber bullying.”

It tells the story of three teens, all negatively affected by different forms of bullying by their peers.

The fact that at some point all three characters in the film consider suicide as the only escape from their torment is a sobering one and definitely not just the stuff of fiction. There have been numerous high-profile cases in the media of teens driven to take their own lives.

“The idea behind the video was to show the physical side of it. So the character that I play is seeing what’s happening in cyberspace,” said LCS Grade 12 student, Ashley Vomacka.

“We want people to realize that words still hurt and just because you can’t see someone’s face as they read something, there are still consequences.”

The girls chose the medium of film for their project after taking a newly offered course in film at LCS last year. Frost acted as executive producer, while fellow student, Jayson Paychaud directed.

The team of Frost and Vomacka have gone on to make several more films and created a YouTube channel to showcase upcoming “Fromacka Productions.”

They recently completed a 50-minute psychological thriller entitled Two’s a Crowd. Frost wrote the original script, with both girls combining forces to come up with the final screenplay and act in the production.

“We’re burning it to a DVD and will show it at premiere night which takes place each year at the school,” said Frost.

As well as creating Let it Die, the team will participate in many other events during the school’s upcoming Compassion Week as part of their Leadership Group initiatives.

“There’s suicide awareness, Rainbow or Acceptance Day as well as Pink Shirt Day on the 26th,” said Vomacka. “We’re also encouraging people to go out and perform random acts of kindness.”

For parents concerned about their kids’ online activities and the whole bullying problem, a good place to start is by viewing Let it Die.

There are also many resources and websites available that provide tips on keeping kids safe online and what to do if your child or someone they know is being bullied or is bullying someone.

The government site getcybersafe.gc.ca is a great start, or contact your child’s school for more ideas. LCS held a cyber-safety presentation at the school last December which provided lots of good information.

Cyber-bullying takes many forms and not all of them involve words. It’s important to be aware that the sharing or transmitting of certain images can also be a form of bullying, with the recently introduced Bill C-13 enacted to deal with just such activities, resulting in some cases, in criminal charges.

“We need to keep getting the message out that bullying of any kind cannot be tolerated,” said Vomacka. “If you wouldn’t say something to someone face-to-face, then why would you say it on-line? Nobody should have to put up with being bullied.”