Online Harassment

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The Amanda Todd case is a local example of cyberbullying with tragic consequences. On September 7, 2012, the 15 year old teen from Coquitlam, BC posted a YouTube video that features a series of handwritten cue cards depicting her “never ending story” as a victim of blackmail, cyberbullying, physical assault and self-harm. Tragically, Amanda Todd’s story ended in suicide. Stories like Amanda’s have provoked development of public awareness campaigns like the one below, tackling cyberbullying as a public health warning would.

Cyberbullying is difficult to stop because it can be anonymous; additionally, it seems that the term “cyberbullying” doesn’t resonate with youth. According to Danah Boyd, teens will often define “cyberbullying” in a way that excludes anything they’re involved in.

Unfortunately, the definition of cyberbullying is not as narrow as some would like; the scope and forms of cyberbullying are quite wide. These include (but are not limited to) stalking behaviours, threats, harassment, impersonation, outing, or ‘doxxing’ (publication of personal information, generally for witch-hunting purposes). If you identify with any of these behaviors and actions, take some time to reevaluate your online activity. Cyberbullying has extensive repercussions and is associated with a range of physical and mental health issues.

With an increase in media attention on this issue, more jurisdictions are taking action against cyberbullying. In response to Ms.Todd’s death, NDP MP Dany Morin introduced a motion to the Canadian House of Commons for more funding and support for anti-bullying organizations. Additionally, the motion proposed will include a study of the scope of bullying in Canada.

As cyberbullying awareness continues to grow, more bullies are being prosecuted. A provincial judge in Victoria found a 17 year old girl guilty of distributing child pornography when she shared naked photographs of her boyfriend’s ex. This case is unusual but demonstrates possible legal consequences for cyberbullying.

Social shaming is likely the most effective way of preventing cyberbullying, but requires collective action. Individuals can help by identifying, impeding and ignoring bullies, as well as by contacting law enforcement if someone is in immediate danger.

Additional Resources

Youth engaging in online harassment: associations with caregiver–child relationships, Internet use, and personal characteristics

Canadian Bar Association: Stalking, Criminal Harassment and Cyberbullying

How to respond to online harassment

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Have you ever been a victim of cyberbullying? What about a bully?

How is cyberbullying addressed in your community?

Do you have stories to share?

Let us know in the comments below.

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