There is ample opportunity for children in our society to use electronic
forms of communication, which leaves them open to electronic aggression and
cyber bullying. A study recent Canadian study found that by the age 11, (that
is grade 6) children text an average of 80 minutes a day, 18% use social
networking sites such as Facebook despite not meeting age requirements,
58% communicate through internet or cell phone. It also found that 31% of
eleven year olds have their own cell phone, 68% of those send and receive
texts and 21% have internet on their phone.
With all this new technology available the school yard bully has moved into
the cyber age. Cyber-bullying, has become the preferred way to bully, because
it can be done easily by using a computer, cell phone or tablet. The bully does
not have to face the victim, and can reach a large audience with the touch of a
button. Victims prefer not to tell because they worry about being forced to
disconnect from social media themselves, so the bully has an open door to
torment and harass until the victim can take it no longer.
What is cyber bullying?
Cyber bullying involves sending verbal or physical threats, harassing messages, hateful or derogatory
comments, and posting unflattering or obscene photos, and in more extreme cases the building a hate filled web
site aimed at demeaning and intimidating the victim. It can be so intrusive that a child feels trapped and helpless,
because cyber bullies are like stalkers who won't stop. The cyber bully gains power and control over the victim
much like school yard bully, but is worse because the cyber bully follows the victim everywhere they go through
the use of voicemail, texts, and instant messages.
In order to prosecute the police need proof which most victims just want to delete, and with the added ease of
establishing a social media account many cyber bullies use a false identity to prevent getting caught. Even if the
police are able to trace the source of harassing messages the bully can deny involvement and claim that
someone else used his/her identity and computer. The more sophisticated bullies have even challenged
authorities saying they have freedom of speech and cannot be censored just because someone disapproves of
what they are saying.
Then there are those who don’t see the effects of what they are doing. I performed a survey of twelve young
people I know between the ages of 8-16 years old these are my findings:
6 had been cyber bullied but felt it was a small and one time incident
3 admitted to posting unflattering photos of friends online but felt it was all in fun not being a bully
2 actually felt they were bullied and threatened so changed their account settings so the bully was blocked
1 said he didn't know why people made a big deal about cyber bullying, then said "everyone at my school posts
things about each other, its a game" when I asked how the recipient of these things felt he said " we just laugh it
Although my survey only reached a few people and didn't really give me a broad spectrum I did see a difference
in opinions between the youngest and oldest of the group and I feel that cyber bullying gets more sophisticated in
the higher age range.
The effects of cyber bullying:
"A 2009 study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health revealed that 29 per cent of Ontario students - or
nearly one in three children reported being bullied at school."
Research shows that cyber bullying takes an effect on the victim's physical as well as emotional well being.
Victims of cyber bullying have reported the following concerns: headaches, recurring stomach pain, difficulty
sleeping, depression leading to feeling hopeless about their situation, crying, over-eating or refusing to eat, being
angry and/or irritable in their every day life, begin using alcohol and illegal drugs, can begin to perform poorly in
school, and may even self-harm themselves. They are also twice as likely to attempt suicide.
Some examples of the severe effects of cyber bullying are;
Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old from Nova Scotia committed suicide. She was sexually assaulted when she was
15 and the photos of the incident were later shared with her classmates and friends, causing her such distress
she felt the only way out was to end her life.
Amanda Todd, a Port Coquitlam teen who endured persistent bullying related to a sexually explicit photo of
herself that was posted online, ended her life.
Audrie Pott, 15, hanged herself eight days after photos of a sexual attack were posted online and shared among
classmates at Saratoga High School.
Eleven students at Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School in Caledon East began an online group calling the
principal the "grinch of school spirit" after the school enforced a district ban on electronic devices and announced
it would impose a uniform policy. The comments posted on Facebook were demeaning to the principal, extremely
vulgar and very profane.
Kenneth Weishuhn, a gay high school freshman from Paullina, Iowa, took his own life after being bullied by
classmates at school and online, and with death threats by phone. The bullying began with an anti-gay Facebook
group, created by Kenneth’s classmates. His mother, Jeannie Chambers, said she knew her son was being
harassed, and said that her son told her, "Mom, you don’t know how it feels to be hated.“ According to his sister
Kayla, the abuse that started after he "came out" was from people he had trusted: “People that were originally his
friends, they kind of turned on him. A lot of people, they either joined in or were too scared to say anything.”
Phoebe Prince was a 15-year-old Irish immigrant, a student at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts.
Pheobe hanged herself two days before the winter cotillion dance at her school. Pheobe, a newcomer to the
school, was a victim of cyber bullying about her date for that dance, a senior football player. Phoebe was
subjected to an onslaught of bullying and was called "Irish slut" and "whore" on Twitter, Craigslist, Facebook and
Formspring, and in person at the school. Even after her death, the girls left vicious messages on a Facebook
page created in her memory.
Hope Witsell was a 13-year-old who grew up in Sundance, Florida. Her only crime was forwarding a nude photo
of herself to a boy she liked. Another girl borrowed the boy’s phone, found the image and forwarded it to other
students. And so, the image found its way to a lot of other students in her school and in other schools. The result
– taunting and bullying from her peers at Beth Shields Middle School, with insults such as "whore" and "slut". On
Sept. 12, 2009 Hope wrote in her journal: “I'm done for sure now. I can feel it in my stomach. I'm going to try and
strangle myself. I hope it works.”
In his school's AV lab, an overweight teen filmed himself fighting invisible enemies with a light saber fashioned out
of a broomstick, the teen made his own sound effects as he awkwardly thrashed about, he thought, for his own
private viewing. A few days later, some other students at the school found the video and uploaded it to a file
sharing website. He was taunted at school and had to be put into a mental hospital for a short time.
CANADIAN BULLYING STATISTICS
Canadian study of cyber bullying, completed in 1999, and based on 490 students (half female,
half male) in Grades 8-10 showed:
» 64 per cent of kids had been bullied at school.
» 12 per cent were bullied regularly
» 13 per cent bullied other students
» 64 per cent considered bullying a normal part of school life.
» 20-50 per cent said bullying can be a good thing (makes people tougher, is a good way to solve
» 25-33 per cent said bullying is sometimes OK and/or that it is OK to pick on losers.
» 61-80 per cent said bullies are often popular and enjoy high status among their peers.
CANADIAN BULLYING STATISTICS (2)
A study of Canadian school children from September 2011-April 2012 found that although 48 %
had been bullied for less than a month, 41% had suffered for months, and 11 % had suffered for
years. Children as young as seven, in grade two, reported being bullied, but between the age of
thirteen and sixteen the incidents increase substantially as seen in the chart below.
What is being done?
* National Anti-Bullying Day takes place the last Wednesday in February, in 2013 this was February 27. To show
support for Anti-Bullying Day people were asked to wear a pink shirt, wrist bands were also available.
* The Canadian government has invested $300,000 to develop an online strategy to help students and parents
fight cyber-bully. The money will be used to develop a bilingual online workshop designed for youth and young
athletes; in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario; and develop a social media strategy
to increase awareness of the issue of youth violence and healthy relationships.
* The province’s Safe School Act, called Bill 81, has been updated to state that a student can be expelled for
inappropriate use of electronic communications/media, bullying, intimidating, threatening and cyber bullying. The
Act creates legal obligations for school boards and schools to prevent bullying, issue tougher consequences for
bullying, and support students who want to promote understanding and respect for all.
* Parliament has been debating the issue trying to find a way to combat cyber-bullying, leaders of both
Saskatchewan parties spoke not as politicians, but as fathers. "Everyone who spoke in the house today is also a
parent,” said Premier Brad Wall. “I think when we hear about these stories the first reaction is anger; you know
you feel real anger that this could possibly, possibly happen.” Amendments to the criminal code would make it
illegal to post intimate photos without consent are being debated in Ottawa.
The Criminal Code of Canada, as it stands now states that on-line bullying is considered a criminal act and is
punishable by law. Offences covered under this act include:
- sending repeated messages to someone if the messages cause that person to fear for his or her safety or the
safety of others.
- publishing defamatory and libelous, comments that are insulting or damaging to a person's reputation by
exposing him or her to hatred, contempt, or ridicule
- any violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act which involves spreading of hate or discrimination based on
race, religion, colour, national or ethnic origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital or family status, age or disability.
Books About Cyber Bullying
By Kate McCaffrey
Publisher: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2006
By Rachel Stuckey
Publisher: Crabtree Publishing Company 2013
By Nick Hunter
Publisher: Heinemann Educational Books 2011
Cyber Bullying: Protecting Kids and Adults from
Samuel C., III McQuade, James P. Colt , Nancy B. B.
Publisher: Praeger Publishers; 2009
Cyber Bullying: A Reference Handbook
Samuel C., III McQuade, James P. Colt
Publisher: ABC-CLIO Not available until 2014
20 Tips and Tricks to Prevent Cyber Bullying
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 2012
Safe Environment Curriculum for Personal and Cyber
Safety, grades K-12th
By Katy Meister
Publisher: Katy Meister 2012
Faux Paw Meets the First Lady: How to Handle Cyber-
bullying: Keeping Children Safe Online
By, Jacalyn Leavitt, Sally Linford, First Lady Laura
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; Book & CD-Rom
Movie edition 2006
The Savvy Cyber Kids at Home: The Defeat of the
Ben Halpert ,
Publisher: Savvy Cyber Kids, Inc. (2011)
Always Remember You Are Loved: When a Child
Seeks Guidance on Cyber and Peer Bullying
Angel D. Washington, Curtis Perry
Publisher: Angel S Diary 2012
Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young
People Learn To Use the Internet Safely and
by Nancy E. Willard
Publisher: Jossey-Bass 2007
Movie for Young People about Cyber Bullying
ABC Family worked with Seventeen magazine to make
the film, and hopes it will "delete digital drama". The
film tells the story of a teenage girl who is bullied online
DVD February 7, 2012.
• Anderson, Greg. April, 19, 2013. ‘The reality of cyber-bullying” Brant News
• Campbell, Bruce, Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, spokesman CBC Radio
• CAMH. February 7, 2013. “Cyberbullying: a covert threat”
• Fletcher, Raquel. April 25, 2013. "Cyberbullying Legislation Prompts Emotional Response" Global News
• Hospital for Sick Children, http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca accessed June 2013
• Levitt, Jacalyn, Linford, Sally, First Lady Laura Bush. “Faux Paw Meets the First Lady” John Wiley & Sons, Inc.;
Mackrael, Kim. April 24, 2013, “House of Commons Urged to Enact New Cyberbullying Law Before its Summer
Break” The Globe and Mail
• Ontario ministry of Education, June 5, 2012. “Ontario Standing Up for Bullied Students”
• Sherring, Susan. APRIL 30, 2013. “Another step to fight bullying, Ottawa Sun
• Statistics Canada. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/ accessed June 2013