PREVNet is a leading group of researchers and national organizations focused on the prevention of bullying in Canada and around the world. According to our 2014 surveyProtecting Canadian Families Online, cyberbullying is now outpacing more typical parenting concerns. Almost half of Canadian parents are concerned about cyberbullying (48%). Compare this to concern expressed about teenage pregnancy (44%), drug use (40%) or alcohol use (38%) and we see that parents have so much more to be aware of and deal with when it comes to the health and welfare of their children.
Parents acknowledge that their children often have ready access to the Internet. Most use the family computer (73%), but some kids have their own personal computer (40%), tablet (31%) or cell phone with a data plan (26%). One in six parents (16%) admit to knowing their children between the ages of eight and 10 have a Facebook account, despite the company’s 13-year age minimum for having an account.
The majority of parents (81%) feel that they are most responsible for protecting their children from cyberbullying, and they expect their children to tell them if they are being cyberbullied. In reality, we see that only 8% of teens that have been bullied online have told their parents, And it’s no wonder: only a third of parents (34%) regularly ask their children questions about cyberbullying. And 1 in 5 parents (20%) admit to making questionable online actions themselves, such as sharing intimate photos or messages online or via text.
There are a number of ways you can promote online safety and prevent your children from being a victim or a cyberbully:
Primus Telecommunications has partnered with PREVNet to launch Canada’s first e-learning program to help parents and youth confront online bullying (www.primus.ca/cyberbullying) Developed in response to high levels of concern among parents across the country, CyberGuard – Cyberbullying Truth, Tips and Tactics features practical tools to proactively address the issue and reduce the incidence of cyberbullying. Its learning modules reassure parents that, even though you may not be social media experts, you have the necessary life experiences to empathize and help your children prevent or resolve online conflict and bullying.
Dr. Wendy Craig is professor, head of psychology, and Scientific Co-Director of PREVNet at Queen's University.