child holding anti-bullying sign

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

The goal of the project was to share our 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, would help to reduce occurrences of cyberbullying and foster digital citizenship in youth from a young age.

This project addressed questions such as:

  • Why is cyberbullying an important public policy concern?
  • Should cyberbullying be considered a crime? What cyberbullying legislation exists? Is it effective?
  • 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 helped the public 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

During the project, we supported partnerships and regularly invited input from legal practitioners, academics, judges, psychologists, educational policymakers and families through interviews, surveys, research studies, and publications. Despite this project having been completed, we still contribute to the landscape of addressing cyberbullying. Whether you are a fellow academic organization, a school, a community group or an NGO, we would love to hear from you.

We would like to thank the following organizations for their partnership and support:

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
Stanford Law School: The Center for Internet and Society (CIS)
The Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports
The Tolerance Foundation

Back to top