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Dr. Shaheen Shariff

Honourable senators, I rise today to congratulate Dr. Shaheen Shariff and her team at McGill University for being named as one of the four recipients worldwide and the only Canadian recipient of Facebook’s Digital Citizenship Research Grant, a $50,000 award.

Out of nearly 100 grant applications from more than 10 countries, Dr. Shariff’s Define the Line project, based on her pioneering research in media and technology, is designed to help reduce cyberbullying and promote responsible digital citizenship. The website www.definetheline.ca aims to help youth conceptuallize the risks and responsibilities of using social media. It also helps parents, teachers and policymakers navigate a “balance between online free expression, safety, supervision and regulation.” The Define the Line project truly embodies the spirit of socially responsible digital citizenship.

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights is similarly committed to studying cyberbullying as an issue of child protection. While we recognize that the social and educational opportunities that come with social media are momentous, as more children become active in social media at younger ages, the onus is on us to teach them the responsibility of digital citizenship.

I commend Facebook as a leader in social media for taking the responsibility upon itself in supporting world-class research to understand the challenges and opportunities our children are facing while growing up surrounded by media and technology.

I offer my sincere congratulations to Dr. Shariff and her team of education and law students at McGill University. I am proud that you are upholding our nation’s vision of rights and responsibilities in the digital world.