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Define the Line - Cyberbullying and Digital Citizenship

Define the Line is a research program based at McGill University and directed by Dr. Shaheen Shariff, an international expert who has pioneered research on cyberbullying over the last decade. Through the website, research projects (Facebook, SSHRC), and outreach initiatives, Define the Line aims to help clarify the blurred lines between cyberbullying and digital citizenship, with a focus on policymaking, education and law.

The program's aim is to share its research findings and expertise with policymakers, educators, and jurists to help them understand the complex nature of cyberbullying and address the existing policy vacuum on the legal and ethical limits of online expression. Effective policymaking, which is grounded in an understanding of digital natives and prioritizes education over legislation, will help to reduce occurrences of cyberbullying and foster digital citizenship in youth from a young age.

The Define the Line website addresses questions such as:

Confronting Cyber-bullying

  • Why is cyberbullying an important public policy concern?
  • Should cyberbullying be considered a crime? What cyberbullying legislation exists? Is it effective?
  • What is the role of law in protecting children and defining consequences for cyberbullying?
  • What are the boundaries of school responsibility? How can schools judge when to intervene in cyberbullying incidences? How should administrators balance issues of privacy with safety?
  • How can technology be creatively incorporated into classrooms to foster digital citizenship?
  • How can information posted on social networks be used in legal settings? Can Facebook profiles be used in court? How can social media users protect the privacy of their information?

And helps our readers understand the legal lines between:

  • Joking or teasing and criminal harassment
  • Posting demeaning photographs or modified images (freedom of expression) and cyber-libel
  • Sexting and possession/distribution of child pornography
  • Perceived threats and true harm
  • The right to privacy and access to information to protect user safety by authorities

Research and Partnerships

SSHRC  Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the overarching objective of this five-year (2012-2017) research project is to improve public policy guidelines and educational modules to reduce cyberbullying and enhance socially responsible digital communication. More

FACEBOOK  Define the Line was one of four projects selected internationally to receive the Facebook Digital Citizenship Grant (spanning one year, 2012-2013). The main objective of this research is to better understand youth conceptions of public and private space, and inform the policy and practice vacuum on cyberbullying by initiating a shift towards fostering socially responsible digital citizenship. More

SCHOOLS  Define the Line is also partnering with Lester B. Pearson School Board and their Digital Citizenship Program.


Want to know more?

Define the Line Website

definetheline [dot] edu [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Contact DTL)


Version française (Définir la Frontière) bientôt disponible.