It’s a social media world. Virtually everyone is on the internet and social media usage continues to climb. In 2017 there were about 22.7 million social network users in Canada and projections estimate that this number will grow to 24 million by 2022. That’s a whole lot of communicating among people! Social media can take many forms from photo-sharing platforms to gaming to chat apps to networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
While there is no arguing that social media has revolutionized our ability to communicate with one another in many positive ways, there are some impacts that have and continue to be negative.
Cyberbullying is a real concern. Especially among young people, communication – more than ever before – is done online. It’s important to engage safely on social media and to be aware that some people behave in mean and unsafe behaviour online.
What is Cyber Bullying?
According to the Canada Safety Council, Cyberbullying is defined as harmful actions that are communicated via electronic media and are intended to embarrass, harm, or slander another individual. Cyber bystander behaviour includes behaviours such as passively watching someone being cyberbullied or assisting the person cyberbullying (e.g. adding more mean comments to a mean post). The problem with cyber bullying is that the people involved are faceless and it is often harder to identify and stop a person bullying online than in the offline realm.
The RCMP describe bullying as follows: Bullying happens when there is an imbalance of power; where someone purposely and repeatedly says or does hurtful things to someone else. Bullying can occur one on one or in a group(s) of people.
The RCMP also note that bullying can be physical, verbal or social.
Cyberbullying, notes the RCMP, involves the use of communication technologies such as the internet, social networking sites, websites, email, text messaging and instant messaging to repeatedly intimidate or harass others.
A poll conducted by AT&T and done in New York City found that about 50 percent of teens have experienced bullying. Another survey found that 38 percent of teens would tell their parents about cyberbullying, 27 percent would share the information with a friend and 15 percent would tell no one.
Parents need to be aware of cyberbullying and should encourage conversations with their children about their online experiences.
What to do if you’re faced with a bully?
There are steps you can take to do something if you or someone you know is being bullied online. The RCMP website provides many tips on what you can do if you are a victim of bullying or you know someone who is being bullied. Tips are provided for youth and adults. There is also useful information on the impacts of bullying, and bullying and the law. For more information, go to http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cycp-cpcj/bull-inti/index-eng.htm
You can find more information from the Canadian Red Cross at https://www.redcross.ca/how-we-help/violence-bullying-and-abuse-prevention/youth/cyberbullying and the Canada Safety Council at canadasafetycouncil.org/cyber-bullying-2/
The reality is that we need to take care when online, and we need to protect young people from the darker side of the cyber world. We hope you’ve found this article helpful. Stay safe.