Study finds parents more concerned about cyberbullying than ever before

By Dr. Wendy Craig, PhD., FRSC on November 18, 2015

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.

Kids don’t tell their parents until it’s too late

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.

Time to be proactive

There are a number of ways you can promote online safety and prevent your children from being a victim or a cyberbully:

  • Start talking to children earlier about the dangers of cyberbullying and the importance of behaving in ways that promote positive relationships. As soon as children have access to the Internet, it’s time to speak with them about the dangers of cyberbullying and how to report threatening behaviour.
  • Save messages and share with teachers. Show children how to save all threatening or hurtful messages they receive via the Internet. This evidence can be used to report incidences of cyberbullying or when speaking with the parents of the person doing the bullying. They may not know about their child’s bullying behaviour and having a record of communication is important.
  • Block harassing or threatening messages online. There are privacy tools available on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and even on your phone and email to block the person doing the bullying, whether the messages come in via text, email or on social networking sites. Learn how to block the person bullying and make children aware of these options. Most importantly, encourage them to tell an adult they trust about the bullying.
  • Educate children on the dos and don’ts of acceptable online behaviour. There are a number of rules for safe and acceptable online behaviour. Some of these include:
    • Never share personal information or photos in a chat room
    • Never share cell phone numbers or email addresses unless you know and trust the person
    • Never take, post, email or forward naked photos of yourself or anyone else to anyone 
  • Inform the school. Make the school aware of a bullying situation so teachers can be on guard and report any abnormal behaviour.
  • Teach children to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Inform your children that even if they didn’t create the original hurtful email or message, by passing it on they are now participating in online bullying. On the other hand, by deleting the message and refusing to pass it on, they become part of the solution. Encourage them to also inform you of any worrying incidents they may witness online.  

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.


By Dr. Wendy Craig, PhD., FRSC| November 18, 2015

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