Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cyberbullying at an All-Time High: Don't Be a Bystander

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cyberbullying at an All-Time High: Don't Be a Bystander

Article excerpt

Cyberbullying at an all-time high: Don't be a bystander

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Nadia Naffi, Full-Time Faculty in the Education Department (Educational Technology) & Public Scholar, Concordia University

Never in the history of humanity has bullying been so inventive and thus destructive. Cyberbullies exploit this digital age to spread hate. They intentionally and repeatedly use the internet to cause harm, fear or distress to people. Their behaviour includes harassing individuals they consider weak and defenceless, denigrating them and harming their reputation, typical of hate speech spreaders. Although cyberbullying has become destructive and feels unstoppable, there are techniques for dealing with it.

Feeling helpless and alone facing the cyberbullying beasts, Megan Meier, Amanda Todd, Todd Loik and many other youth have taken their own life to flee the inhumane emotional pain they experienced.

They are not alone. Cyberbullying victims are twice more likely to attempt suicide, especially when passive bystanders witness their suffering and do nothing. Some live stream their own suicide in a desperate attempt to get attention.

The majority of bullying -- 85 per cent -- happens in front of other people and yet, a recent Ipsos survey conducted in August 2017 on behalf of the Canadian Red Cross revealed that only one third of Canadians who witnessed cyberbullying stood up to it.

This is alarming.

Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ+ groups, Blacks and refugees are amongst the groups that are at a greater risk of cyberbullying than others.

Not long ago, U.S. President Trump's cyberbully behaviour gave the green light to his followers to further victimise Muslims and refugees online. This led to a 600 per cent increase on online hate speech in Canada.

Attempts to stop cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is not limited to one context. When it happens, it derails human potential and we all bear the consequences. For this reason, many actively try to find solutions to stop it.

Yet, it still flows.

Some propose to address cyberbullying in workplace policies, code of conduct and training resources. Others focus on encouraging parents to help children develop empathy or share with educators strategies to protect their students from cyberbullying and help LGBTQ students to feel safe.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Centre for Youth Crime Prevention shares its definition of bullying and cyberbullying and explains what individuals should do in case they are bullied or witness bullying. The Canadian Red Cross provides tips to help youth protect themselves and stand up to cyberbullies.

Anti-bullying campaigns such as #SpreadKindness, #ERASEBullying and #enoughisenough promote healthy relationships between youth and encourage victims to speak out and share their success stories of overcoming bullying and cyberbullying.

On Feb. 28, many Canadians will wear a pink T-shirt and share one slogan: "Bullying stops here! Together we can make a difference." The main goal of the Pink T-Shirt Day Society Anti-Bullying Campaign is to start conversations.

Kestrel McNeil, Demi Lovato and Ed Sheeran are examples of bullying survivors, who lived to tell their story. However, despite our support, very few at-risk individuals can stand up to cyberbullies, let alone tell their stories. They remain one click away from being victimised and cyberbullied.

As bystanders, we have a moral and ethical obligation to protect them from the cyberbullying targeting them.

Get ready to act

Cyberbullies thrive in contexts of real or imagined power imbalance. To end cyberbullying, we need to ensure power balance. This will happen when bystanders are actively involved. …

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