Recent numbers from Statistics Canada on cyberbullying (2009) indicate that slightly less than one in 10 adults (9 per cent) living in a household with a child between the ages of eight and 17 knew of a case of cyberbullying against one of their children. According to the 2011 Norton Cyberbullying survey, one quarter of Canadian parents polled (26 per cent), said their child had been involved in a cyberbullying incident. The survey also found that Canadian girls are more often involved in cyberbullying incidents than boys (86 per cent compared to 55 per cent), that cyberbullying is happening most frequently through social media channels, and that cyberbullying incidents are slightly more prevalent with tweens (eight to 12 years old). 73 per cent of tweens were affected by cyberbullying, compared to 71 per cent of high-schoolers (15-18), and 64 per cent of middle-schoolers (13-14).
Talk to your children, let them know the consequences of writing or posting carelessly on the Internet, and ensure they know to keep a hard copy of any bullying messages that they are sent.
If appropriate, report the cyberbullying to the website or provider, to the school, etc. If the cyberbullying involves kids at school (and most targets know who is involved or have strong suspicions), you can report it to the principal, a teacher or the guidance counsellor. Almost all schools now have a cyberbullying policy that spells out exactly what will happen.
Many schools are responding to the growing awareness of cyberbullying by creating policies and pledges to address the issue. The tragic suicide of Ottawa teen Jamie Hubley, as a result of cyberbullying (among other factors), has become a rallying cry. Whether it is cyberbullying, depression, or thoughts of suicide, Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) are always there at your children’s’ disposal.
Cyberstalking is a dangerous extension of cyberbullying and can is used by those who engage in stalking in the real or “offline” world. According to the 2009 Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics survey on Criminal Harassment, more than 20,000 cases of stalking were reported across Canada (a seven per cent increase from 2008) and three quarters of the victims were female. With awareness of the issue, our older teens can learn to defend themselves and parents should know how to help. The stalker may hijack an email account and pose as the person whose email they’ve hijacked. The attacker might deface a social networking page or send hateful messages to the victim’s friends, engage in outright identity theft, or try to destroy somebody’s credit and reputation.
Cyberstalking can be dangerous and should be reported to law enforcement, Internet service providers, and website hosts. Keep all evidence of both cyberstalking and cyberbullying.