One in five young Canadians is cyberbullied or cyberstalked, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent report. If left unmanaged, children may experience lasting emotional and psychological effects that could impair adult life. To help recognize and repel online attacks, Primus, a national communications provider, and PREVNet, Canada’s authority on bullying, have launched a new website that will serve as an essential resource for parents, children and schools seeking information and guidance.
Check it out: primus.ca/cyberbullying
In partnership since 2015, Primus and PREVNet have worked together closely to arm families and educators with practical and accessible anti-cyberbullying tools. Found at primus.ca/cyberbullying, the updated site is now easier to navigate, includes specific materials for parents and educators, and provides support ideas to help with the varying social needs of children at three different stages: young kids, tweens and teenagers. The site also features a blog with insights from subject-matter experts.
“Constant connectivity is the norm for today’s kids. The integration of electronic devices, social media and Internet-based activities into everyday life has transformed the way children interact with one another, but we’re still learning how to navigate the effects of this societal shift,” says David Varriano of Primus. “While there are many benefits to how technology is shaping our world, it quickly becomes a conductor for abuse and unhealthy relationships when used irresponsibly. Our aim is to help manage and prevent cyberbullying by better educating those who are exposed to it.”
Toxic online relationships can trigger lowered self-esteem, depression, anxiety, social isolation, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts and actions in those who are victimized. Cyberbullies themselves also experience negative outcomes, such as insecurity, shame and guilt, and may find it difficult to break the cycle of torment and abuse well into adulthood.
PREVNet notes that, in some cases, cyberbullying is more emotionally damaging than traditional schoolyard bullying. This is due, in part, to the permanency of digital information: comments posted online live forever, so victims of cyberbullying may be exposed to and can relive their trauma again and again. Also, 24-hour access to technology means that harassment can be impossible to escape, even when seemingly safe at home.
“At its core, cyberbullying is not a technology problem, it’s a relationship problem. However, kids often downplay its seriousness because they fear the repercussions, such as losing access to their devices or being isolated by their peers,” said Jennifer Shapka, Research Partner, PREVNet and professor at the University of British Columbia. “Because of this, it’s important that we have a platform that will help to facilitate difficult conversations, deescalate heated situations and shed light on how to stop harmful behaviour. Our website is now better equipped to give parents, teachers and children of all ages the resources they need to minimize the detrimental effects of destructive online relationships.”
Cyberbullying is defined as an aggressive act – such as embarrassment, humiliation, threats, stalking, or harassment – targeted at an individual or group of individuals through digital means. It comes in many forms, can happen on any device or through any online platform (e.g. social media sites, video games, private messaging, etc.), and can be committed by someone known or unknown. Aggressors of cyberbullying are often victims themselves, so it is vital that everyone affected take the appropriate steps to put an end to it promptly.
Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet) is a national network comprised of 122 leading Canadian research scientists and their students from 27 universities, and 62 national youth-serving organizations. Launched in 2006 with the Networks of Centres of Excellence, PREVNet’s mission is to stop bullying in Canada and to promote safe and healthy relationships for all Canadian children and youth. Led by scientific co-directors Dr. Debra Pepler of York University and Dr. Wendy Craig of Queen’s University, this national knowledge mobilization network is the first of its kind in Canada, providing an unprecedented opportunity for social-cultural change. For more information, please visit www.prevnet.ca.