Cyberbullying is just as common in Canada as it was years ago, despite more awareness of the issue, according to an Ipsos poll.
The poll found that most Canadians, at 85 per cent, are aware that online bullying is an issue — an increase of five percentage points from a similar survey conducted in 2011.
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But it also found that one-third of Canadian parents know a child in their community who has experienced cyberbullying. And 20 per cent of parents also said their own child has been a victim.
Those numbers have stayed nearly the same.
In 2011, 31 per cent of Canadian parents said they knew a child who had been bullied online, while 18 per cent said their own child has experienced cyberbullying.
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Mike Colledge, the president of Canadian Public Affairs at Ipsos, told Global News that the results indicate there is much more work to be done.
“The worrisome thing is that we started in 2011 to track [instances] and the numbers haven’t moved down,” Colledge said.
The survey also found parents believe that social media apps and websites are the most common platform for cyberbullying. Most parents (68 per cent) also indicated that the majority of cyberbullying in Canada is done by a child’s classmate.
Colledge said that likely means solving the issue involves a focus on schools — but that’s not enough.
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“It has to be all-encompassing in order to change the culture. It’s not as simple as saying if we put regulations in schools, it’ll stop.”
About three-quarters of Canadians who responded to the survey said the issue requires “special attention,” and existing measures don’t do enough.
Why is solving bullying so hard?
Matthew Johnson, who works with online literacy group MediaSmarts in Ottawa, told Global News that addressing the problem is difficult for several reasons.
First, the methods of dealing with offline bullying that were commonly used before can’t always be applied to cyberbullying.
That means parents, policy makers and other players need to look for new solutions — but first they need a fuller understanding of how digital platforms work.
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“The evidence is quite strong that the only thing that’s successful is a whole community approach with consistent messaging from home, school and ideally the media, as well,” he said.
Coordinating that effort can be difficult, especially when adults don’t always know what’s going on online.
“With cyberbullying, there’s the additional issue that so much of it is happening away from the eyes of adults,” Johnson said.
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Things that help address bullying
While solving or eradicating online bullying is extremely difficult, there are steps everyone can take to help.
Johnson says one thing parents can do is instill values of respect in their children.
“Even when it sounds like everything you’re saying is going in one ear and out the other, they are listening to you. Especially, the rules and values we set for them do make a difference.”
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Youth who witness bullying can also help.
“One of the things that holds people back is the idea that they need to do something right then and there, and they need to do something public,” Johnson said.
He noted that research has actually found that comforting a target of bullying in private is one of the most effective ways of addressing the problem.
“It lets them know they weren’t alone, that someone else also thought what happened was wrong,” he explained.
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How Canada compares to other countries
The survey also looked at responses from parents in 28 other countries, and found that Canadian parents generally feel similar to their global counterparts.
Like Canada, one in five parents in other countries said their child has experienced cyberbullying. And a large majority said they want to see more action taken to address the issue.
Colledge says that indicates cyberbullying is an international problem and not just a “Canadian issue.”
This Ipsos poll was completed online by 20,793 adults from across 28 countries around the world, including Canada, between March 23 and April 6, 2018. Each country had a sample size of 500-1000+ respondents. Polls of 1,000 are considered accurate, plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, and polls of 500 respondents are considered accurate plus or minus five percentage points.