Maybe you've heard it called drama, gossip, trolling or just plain hate.
Whatever name it goes by, cyberbullying is serious. It really hurts the people who it targets, and affects every aspect of their lives. In some cases, it has even led to tragedy. Cyberbullying is happening to more and more teens every day. No one deserves it, and we can all do more to stop it.
Simply put, cyberbullying happens when people use computers, cellphones or other devices to embarrass, humiliate, torment, threaten or harass someone else. Children as young as age eight have done it, but it most commonly occurs among teenagers.
Cyberbullying usually takes the form of continuous abuse over a period of time. But whether it's the sharing of one humiliating photo or 1,000 hateful text messages, cyberbullying is toxic. It destroys the reputations, happiness, and feelings of self-worth of too many teens. It's so stressful, it can even affect the mental health of the person it's targeting.
A big problem with cyberbullying is that because it's delivered through electronic devices, it can get to people anywhere and at anytime. Unlike face-to-face bullying, where the victim may at least be able to escape the physical situation, cyberbullying can reach them walking home from school, alone in their bedroom, or even on a family vacation. It can be hard to get away from it or ignore it.
And because it can spread so quickly, to such a huge audience, cyberbullying has already involved a great number of teens, whether as the victim, the person who is bullying, the silent observer, or as someone who participates from the sidelines and becomes part of the problem.
Where do you fit in?
There are so many ways that cyberbullying is carried out, and it can change or adapt as quickly as new technologies and sites emerge. Here are some of the more common ways that cyberbullying happens among Canadian teens:
- Mean or threatening messages are sent by email, text or through comments on a social network.
- Embarrassing rumours, secrets or gossip about someone are spread through social networking sites, texts or email.
- Embarrassing or intimate pictures or video of someone is posted online or shared without them knowing about it or agreeing to it.
- Stories, pictures, jokes or cartoons intended to embarrass or humiliate someone are posted online.
- Someone's email account is hacked and the person pretends to be them while sending out hurtful messages to others. Or, an individual learns someone's password and uses it to access their social networking account and post embarrassing and hateful messages while pretending to be them.
- Someone is tricked online into sharing personal information, only to have that information shared very widely with others.
- Online polls or rating systems are created to mock and ridicule someone.
- Someone is ganged up on in online gaming, their character repeatedly targeted, and personal information is used to threaten them.
Reality Check: Some quick facts about a very real problem.
Almost 1 in 10 Canadian online teens – 8 per cent – say they have been victims of online bullying on social networking sites. Footnote 1
Over one-third of Canadian teens with a social network profile – 35 per cent – have seen mean or inappropriate comments about someone they know.Footnote 1
14 per cent say they have seen mean or inappropriate comments about themselves on social networks.Footnote 1
18 per cent of Canadian parents say they have a child who has experienced cyberbullying.Footnote 2
31 per cent say they know a child in their community who has experienced cyberbullying.Footnote 2
90 per cent of Canadians would make it illegal to use electronic means to "coerce, intimidate, harass or cause other substantial emotional distress.".Footnote 3
Important things you should know about cyberbullying
- Harassing messages, posts and photos can be distributed quickly to a very wide audience, including strangers, and can be extremely difficult to delete once they've been sent or posted.
- Because cyberbullying happens online, bullies may not witness first-hand the pain they're causing, making it easier for them to continue and even increase the intensity of their attacks.
- Many teens and children have no idea that by sharing messages they've received, 'liking' a post or passing it on they become part of the problem. This behaviour instantly spreads the humiliation and harm far and wide.
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