4 min Read
Tips for parents on how to deal with cyber bullying
May 5, 2010
4 min Read
May 5, 2010
“REBECCA SAYS EVERYBODY HATES ME.” “Jamal is telling everyone to stop talking to me.”
The words come through on Aren van Delden’s computer screen like blows to the stomach. As a phone and web counsellor with Kids Help Phone, van Delden regularly reads email postings from kids who are being cyber bullied.
“It generally starts happening around age 10 or 11, when the Internet becomes a social networking tool. Before that, they’re using it more for games,” says van Delden, who has worked for about 10 years at Kids Help Phone, a national agency that provides counselling to anonymous callers and emailers. She estimates cyber bullying victims are evenly split among boys and girls, but for boys the threats seem to be more physical and with girls, it’s more about social exclusion.
Often, cyber bullying is an extension of school bullying. When kids get home they usually check their emails and the bullying continues. “It hits so deep,” says van Delden. “Then they’re faced with going back to school the next day and there’s no safe place for them. Cyber bullying can be equally as damaging as school bullying because seeing the words in front of you can be devastating.”
Kids Help Phone began offering web counselling about 10 years ago. Counsellors say cyber bullying is among the dominant issues raised by kids. “They find it deeply embarrassing and hard to talk about,” says van Delden, so they usually prefer to email counsellors instead of phoning them.
A 2008 poll by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) found that 34 percent of Canadians surveyed knew of students in their community who had been targeted by cyber bullying. That same year, in a University of Toronto poll, 29 percent of grade 6 and 7 students admitted they had cyber bullied others and 20 percent had been cyber bullied.
As a result, the CTF teamed up with the RCMP to develop an anti-cyber bullying curriculum. In April 2009, Vancouver MP Hedy Fry introduced a bill to amend the Criminal Code to specify cyber bullying as an offence. (The bill died when Parliament was prorogued in late 2009, but she plans on re-introducing it.)
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, May 2010.