Prevent Cyberbullying

  • What is cyberbullying?
  • What can I do to prevent or stop cyberbullying?

Consider these questions as you review the examples below.

The Amanda Todd case is a recent story about cyberbullying that hits close to home. 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.

Video posted by: StruttCentral on YouTube

Cyberbullying is a difficult topic to address because of the digital (and perhaps immaterial) space in which it is conducted, and the anonymity by which it can be enabled. Additionally, it seems that the term “cyberbullying” doesn’t resonate with youth. As Danah Boyd describes, teens will often define “cyberbullying” in a way that excludes anything they may be involved in.

Unfortunately, the definition of cyberbullying is not as narrow as some would like. The scope of cyberbullying is quite wide, and it comes in several forms.

Some of these are:

Cyberstalking repeated use of electronic means to annoy, harass or threaten an individual
Cyberthreats sending threatening messages intended to infer that the recipient/their family is in danger or harm
Flaming sending angry (often with offensive language) messages technologically
Harassment technological version of discrimination or hostile behaviour towards someone based on his/her status (gender/sex, race, religion, disability, etc)
Denigration sending/posting defamatory information about someone
Masquerading posing as someone else to send rude/inappropriate messages on their behalf
Outing/Trickery persuading someone into revealing personal information and then subsequently publicizing it
Social exclusion deliberately excluding someone out from online activity (game, discussion board, chat room, etc)

Definitions and concepts credit- Sheri Bauman. Cyberbulling What Counselors Need to Know Alexandria, VA: American counseling Association, 2011.

If you identify with any of these behaviors and actions, take some time to reevaluate your online activity. Contrary to the opinion of some, 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 Todd’s death, NDP MP Dany Morin is introducing 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 and unprecedented; nevertheless, the legal consequences for cyberbullying are increasing in severity.

Here are some suggestions for what to do if you come across cyberbullying while interacting online:

  • Save the evidence
  • Identify the person who is bullying
  • Publicly demand that the bully stop the behavior
  • Ignore/block the bully
  • File a complaint with the website’s Internet Service Provider (ISP)
  • Contact the police if you think someone is in immediate danger
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