Website launched to combat cyberviolence against girls

The Newfoundland and Labrador government and the other Atlantic provinces have launched a new program to educate girls on how to protect themselves and others online.
Excerpts from a speech by Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Charlene Johnson talking internet safety 9:22

The Newfoundland and Labrador government and other Atlantic provinces have launched a new program to educate girls on how to protect themselves and others online.

Cybersafe Girl provides young girls, parents and educators with information on how girls experience violence and abuse on the internet, and how to protect young women from becoming victims online. The site also encourages parents to talk frequently with their daughters about internet use and the risks of social media.

Natasha Thorne says she was the target of cyber-bullying when she was in elementary school. (CBC )

High school student Natasha Thorne said she knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of cyberviolence.

"I was cyberbullied in elementary school," said Thorne. "Some girls in my school started saying things about me around my school because I was helping out a special ed student."

Old behaviour, new technology

So-called 'mean girl' behaviour may not be new, but according to high school student Amanda Dillon, the internet gives bullies a large pulpit from which to work.

"A lot of stuff happens over Facebook. Like, someone will comment on something and then everyone is like 'Oooh Facebook drama' ," said Dillon. "And they comment and comment and comment and it's mostly the girls."

Earlier this week, cyberviolence between girls in Blaketown escalated to physical violence — and made the news.

Statistics show that girls account for more than 80 per cent of all victims of cyberviolence, ranging from name calling to sexual exploitation, and girls are involved in more than 80 per cent of the cases of child luring on the internet for sexual purposes.

Provincial officials said 30 cases involving children and the internet are before the courts right now in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Talk it out

Even cyberviolence that doesn't reach the courts can be especially damaging for girls because studies show they can be three times more likely to suffer from low self-esteem as a result of cyber-violence than boys.

Thorne said her mother was ahead of her time in dealing with cyber-bullying, as she and her mother talked extensively about her own cyberbullying episode. 

"My mom kept reassuring me that nothing was going to happen and it would all blow over eventually," said Thorne.

Thorne's mother also gave her some good, old-fashioned, offline advice on what do about the girls who were saying nasty things about her on the Internet.   

"I just talked to them to see what was going on, and everything was resolved."