Canadians ‘very concerned’ about bullying, poll shows

They’re waking up to alarm clocks, getting onto the school bus and opening new textbooks – across Canada, kids are going back to school.
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TORONTO – The majority of the country is concerned about bullying, both inside and outside of the school yard, an exclusive poll shows.

A staggering 88 per cent of Canadians say they’re worried about youth bullying, according to results of an Ipsos Reid poll conducted for Global News.

“Bullying can be vicious . . . it’s a phenomenon that’s increasing in intensity and something parents are clearly very concerned about,” John Wright, vice president of Ipsos Reid, told Global News.

Among parents, 49 per cent expressed deep concern for bullying, while Canadians without kids were even more worried with 52 per cent reported being “very concerned.”

Ipsos Reid has conducted polls on bullying before, but these respondents showed the highest levels of concern the firm has ever recorded, Wright said.

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The poll is one in a series of education issues the pollsters asked Canadians about. Polling topics such as an interest in specialized schoolslabour unrest and standardized testing were also touched on.

Join our liveblog Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET to ask experts about cyberbullying in Canada.

Bullying outside of the school yard

The proliferation of cyberbullying may be what’s at the root of this influx of concern, Wright suggests.

“We have become sensitized to bullying online. Now, there’s a plethora of different kinds of sites, and you have gangs of bullies online,” he said.

“The difficulty is that while in the schoolyard you can’t hide the bruises, but you can when it’s online.”

Canadian youth are quickly familiarized with the online realm – by 7 years old, most have adapted to navigating social media sites, such as Facebook, Wright says.

Between the ages of 7 and 11, the Internet may be a source of entertainment, but once youth grow into the 12 to 17 age range, bullying “escalates significantly.”

Parents gaining awareness of bullying

Cyberbullying is also troubling from the perspective of adults, according to the poll. Eighty-three per cent flagged it as a problem.

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Parents may be worried after a handful of high-profile cyberbullying cases in Canada in recent years.

In January 2011, Jenna Bowers-Bryanton, a 15-year-old Nova Scotia girl committed suicide after she was bullied online and at school. Another two girls took their lives that year in the Atlantic province.

In the wake of the tragedy, the victims’ parents appealed to the province’s government to investigate what happened and a Nova Scotia cyberbullying task force was assembled.

“Over the last three or four years, cyberbullying has taken on a real prominence in the media, with zero tolerance conditions and things like that,” Wright said.

Parents may be hearing straight from the source – their kids – about bullying inside the classroom and online. But they may not be hearing firsthand about their own child’s plight online.

“With your own child it’s often difficult. You can’t stand over their shoulder and see everything that’s being done with them but you have to make sure there’s a channel open for them to discuss being bullied,” Wright notes.

Canadians on bullying, from region to region

From coast to coast, Canadians showed about the same levels of concern on the issue.

Those who were “most concerned” about bullying were in Saskatoon and Manitoba (61 per cent), followed by Atlantic Canada (57 per cent), Ontario (51 per cent), Quebec (49 per cent), and British Columbia (42 per cent).

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Albertans, with 42 per cent “very concerned,” were the least worried about the issue.

Only two in 10 Canadians weren’t worried about what goes on online.

For that 20 per cent, Wright suggests these respondents may not have kids of their own or may be part of the country’s older population.

Between August 24 to August 29, 1,569 Canadians were interviewed online for the Ipsos Reid survey, which was weighted to bring it in line with Canadian demographics.

Nationally, it has a margin error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, but the margin of error is higher for specific regions of the country.

Read more about tips on preventing bullying on these sites:

Public Safety Canada on bullying prevention

Our Kids, another Ontario based source, provides a fact sheet with statistics and effects