Cyber-bullyingis disturbingly common among Canadian teens, with a majority who responded to an online survey saying they have been bullied online, according to a report released Wednesday.
The report, Cyber-bullying: Our Kids' New Reality, drew from nearly 2,500 responses to a survey conducted by Kids Help Phone between Dec. 20, 2006, and Jan. 20, 2007. Kids Help Phone and Bell Canada released the report in a handful of Canadian cities.
More than 70 per cent of respondents to the survey reported that they have been bullied online, while 44 per cent said they have bullied someone online. At least 38 per cent reported having experienced cyber-bullying within the last three months.
"A large percentage of kids are experiencing bullying or are bullying others in cyberspace online, which was quite a surprise," Donna Hansplant, vice-president of counselling services for Kids Help Phone, told reporters in Toronto.
"What's become really clear to us is the kids are really looking for a way to help them navigate this whole new world. It's their world. There are no adults helping them. They are there by themselves since there are no adult controls on that whole internet system."
The report says 76 per cent of respondents reported being called names and being made to feel bad, while 52 per cent reported having rumours spread about themand 38 per cent reported being threatened or scared.
Of the methods used, 77 per cent reported being bullied by instant messaging, 37 per cent by e-mail and 31 per cent on social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook.
When bullied online, 43 per cent said they did nothing, 32 per cent confronted the person who bullied them, and 27 per cent told a friend.
Only 39 per cent, however, said taking some action helped by making them feel better, while 35 per cent said it had no impact. At least 31 per cent, though, said it stopped the bully from doing it again.
More than 50 per cent of respondents said they were between the ages of 13 and 15 years.
Online bullying is powerful
The report says online bullying carries a greater impact than everyday bullying. It says "there seems to be a greater sense of powerlessness, frustration and betrayal among victims."
It defines cyber-bullying as any communication posted or sent by a minor online, by instant messenger, e-mail, website, diary site, online profile, interactive game, handheld device, cellphone or other interactive device that is intended to frighten, embarrass, harass or otherwise target another minor.
Cyber-bullying is similar to bullying because it involves unequal amounts of power, hurtful actions and repetitive behaviours. But it is different in that the bully can remain anonymous and can pretend to be another person,it says.
As well,online bullyingcan happen anywhere, at any time, can take many forms and carries the capacity for instant and limitless spreading of words and images.If minors are not involved in both sides of the communication, the report says the exchange is considered cyber-harassment, not cyber-bullying.
Preteens and young teens are the ages most often affected and cyber-bullying usually ends around 14 years of age, it says.After 14, the report says it tends to become sexual harassment or hacking attacks.
"Kids seem to be more daring on the internet than they would be face to face, but they are still suffering the emotional hurt and pain that the bullying causes in real life," Hansplant said.
"So as much as they are quick to go on there and retaliate, or do revenge, or bully someone, they feel really bad about it afterwards, and then there's no way to pull it back off cyberspace," Hansplant said.
The report says bullies, in their own words, reported callingothers names, spreading rumours, pretending to be someone else, threatening others and sending personal pictures to others.
Ways to help
Less than half of the respondents said an anonymous phone line for reporting bullying, zero tolerance at school and punishment at school for students who participate would help to prevent the problem.
The report makes several recommendations, saying children should know that cyberspace is public space andthey could avoid places online where problems might occur. They could also ignore the bully, protect personal information, avoid contact, report the incident, know who their friends are and maintain a life outside of the internet.
Schools and communities, for their part, can create consequences for bullies, provide information, promote student solutions, include parents in the discussion and provide an anti-bullying help line, it says.
The report was released to help kick off the Bell Walk for Kids Help Phone scheduled to take place on May 6 in more than 50 communities in Canada. Kids Help Phone is a charity that provides phone and web counselling services.