About a fifth of young Canadians say they have experienced some form of cyberbullying or cyberstalking, according to a new report from Statistics Canada.
The numbers likely won’t come as a surprise to anyone studying the prevalence of online harassment among teens in particular.
School boards, governments and polling firms have for years been reporting an uptick in the occurrence of these behaviours with the rise of text messaging, photo-sharing applications and other technologies popular among young people.
Statistics Canada says this latest study is the first of its kind for the agency, and was based on the broader General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety conducted in 2014. As a result, the statistics are already two years old.
The results show that cyberbullying and cyberstalking were most prevalent among 15- to 20-year-old respondents (about 20 per cent of them confirmed they had experienced one or both), and that the victimization tended to become less common among older age groups.
Among the 27- to 29-year-old cohort, for example, only 15 per cent of respondents reported experiencing online harassment.
Young homosexual and bisexual Canadians were significantly more at risk of becoming victims of web-based abuse. More than one-third of them were cyberbullied or cyberstalked, the study’s authors note.
Past experiences of assault during childhood, witnessing parental violence, and discrimination were significant factors associated with an experience of cyberbullying or cyberstalking,
“For example, among young Canadians who experienced a physical or sexual assault before the age of 15, 31 per cent reported having been cyberbullied or cyberstalked, compared with 13 per cent for those who did not experience assault,” the report noted.
Statistics Canada cautioned, however, that such associations are not necessarily cause-and-effect relationships.
WATCH: Nova Scotia elementary students tackle cyberbullying with new video
Cyberbullying was defined as threatening or aggressive emails, texts or online posts, embarrassing or threatening pictures posted online, or using someone’s identity to send out or post embarrassing or threatening information.
Cyberstalking was defined as repeated and unwanted attention that caused a person to fear for their safety or the safety of someone they know as a result of unwanted messages or pictures shared electronically.