Cyber-bullying: a growing concern for Canadians

By Heather Camlot

Are you worried about what your child is doing online? You’re not alone. According to a recent Ipsos Reid study, almost 90 percent of Canadian parents worry about their child sharing personal information, while 84 percent are most concerned with unwanted contact made by others.

More than three-quarters of parents worry about bullying online.

“Cyber-bullying is one of the unintended consequences of the digital age we now live in,” says study author Mark Laver. “The fact that some parents do not know about the online habits of their children is possibly more troublesome. The internet, smartphones and mobile phones have given children an additional channel to bully their peers.”

The study goes on to report that 1 in 12 parents say their child has been cyber-bullied, while 26 percent couldn’t be sure. The numbers increase with the child’s age.

“While most kids are not prone to engaging in such behaviour, we need to teach all kids to refrain from victimizing others online as much as we need to show them ho to be safe online,” said Lynette Owens, director of corporate outreach for Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids & Families program, the company that commissioned the study.

Interestingly, while 90 percent of parents said they spoke with their children about sharing personal information and almost the same amount discussed unwanted contact by others, only 43 percent are using any parental controls on the computer, the study reports.

Still, with the intense pressure to communicate through Facebook, Twitter, texting and other social networking means, children may be revealing more than they should. To combat cyber-bullying and promote internet safety for kids, The Media Awareness Network suggests the following:

  • Discuss ethical behaviour and create an online agreement about computer use with younger children.
  • Make sure younger children understand to never give out any personal information online and to never share passwords with anyone, including their friends.
  • With older kids, talk about what they do online and what they’re responsibilities are, including never posting anything they’d want you to read, never mind the whole world.
  • If they are threatened online, let your kids know they should come to you (but know they may fear being banned from internet use).
  • If the threats have turned into cyber-bullying, report it to the internet or cell phone provider.
  • Report any online harassment and physical threats to the police.
  • Finally, teach your children what to do when confronted by a cyber-bully: stop whatever they are doing, block the messages, talk to parents and save the messages as evidence.

For safety tips by age, visit the Media Awareness Network.

First published September 6, 2010, on


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