More than 40 per cent of Canadian youth experience cyberbullying in any given month. We’ve put together some advice and resources to help parents guide their kids to respond to and prevent cyberbullying. Here’s how they can rise above it and help make the digital space a safe place.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is when people use technology to intimidate and harass others. Examples are name-calling, harassing someone in an online game, spreading rumours, posting an embarrassing photo or video of someone, or making fun of someone’s race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Cyberbullies often say they’re “just joking,” but it’s no laughing matter. A joke to one person can be really hurtful to another, even if the person making the joke doesn’t mean anything by it.
It’s quite common
A MediaSmarts report called “Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Cuberbullying: Dealing with Online Meanness, Cruelty and Threats” reveals some alarming statistics. Just over a third of Canadian kids and teens said that someone has said something mean or cruel to them online. Sixty per cent of youth report witnessing cyberbullying, and boys are much more likely than girls to be involved in cyberbullying.
Most kids want to help
In 2015, MediaSmarts and PREVNet conducted a study of Canadian students—funded by TELUSwhich showed that fortunately, over 70 per cent who witness online meanness do something about it. But they can still be afraid of making themselves a target, losing social status, being called a snitch, or escalating the situation and making things worse.
Be prepared to talk
Parents are the number one group of people that kids turn to for help with online meanness, according to the MediaSmarts and PREVNet research. Two-thirds of them say that talking to their parents makes the situation better. An excellent starting point to prepare for the conversation is Helping Our Kids Navigate Cyberbullying: A Parent’s Guide. These resources for parents from TELUS WISE also contain valuable information about topics like social media, digital footprints, and signs your child is being cyberbullied.
Set boundaries for behaviour
Have ongoing discussions about your child’s online activities and the importance of treating people with respect and kindness. Set up family Internet and phone rules that grow along with them. Check out Helping Our Kids Navigate Their Wired World for advice about issues that should be on your radar for different ages, from preschoolers to teens. Consider signing a contract if you make the decision to provide your child with a smartphone.
How to help your child intervene effectively if they witness cyberbullying
First, do no harm
If your child witnesses cyberbullying, your first advice should be “Do no harm.” They should think carefully about the possible consequences of different approaches. What can they do that’s most likely to help the person being bullied and least likely to make the situation worse for them or the target? When witnesses stand up and defend the target, it can make a tremendous and positive difference—but not in every situation. There may be times where intervening this way can do greater harm to the child being targeted, to the witness, or both.
Consider different approaches
Encourage your child to consider different approaches, such as:
• Comforting the target privately.
• Helping the target report it or talk about it to their parents.
• Posting something nice about the target.
• Posting a polite reminder such as “We don’t say mean things here” or “Bullying isn’t what this place is about.”
• Talking to the bully privately.
Give your child tools
Show them the interactive tool on this page to help them decide what to do if they’ve witnessed cyberbullying. Click on the purple “Get started” button to begin. You’ll find information like how to help someone feel better, how to defuse a situation, how to support a friend without making things worse, and how to get someone out of harm’s way. These resources for students have lots of useful tools.
Organize a workshop
Book a free TELUS WISE workshop for your parent group or school. TELUS WISE is your trusted source to help keep your family and community safer online, and is endorsed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
For more advice about cyberbullying and online safety, visit www.telus.com/wise