One of the many challenges facing researchers and policymakers is the lack of wide-ranging statistical data across youth populations in Canada on both the incidence of bullying and cyberbullying, and the effectiveness of the various programs and strategies developed to reduce cyberbullying. Having said that, cyberbullying has gained significant attention over the last few years in research, news media and across educational settings. Here are some facts about cyberbullying and digital use in Canada:
- Preliminary research funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for Canada (SSHRC, Shariff, 2009-11) discloses a disturbing trend which suggests at least 60% of digital natives are less sensitive to, or sometimes cannot distinguish the difference between harmless jokes or teasing, and harmful threats, privacy harm and persistent harassment.
- In the Nova Scotia Cyberbullying Task Force Online Survey (2011), 75% of respondents said they believe bullying is a problem in Nova Scotia, and 60% of Nova Scotia student respondents indicate that they have been bullied (A. Wayne MacKay C.M., Q.C. “Respectful and Responsible Relationships: There's No App for That” The Report of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying (2012)).
- In 2011 Kids Help Phone published a follow up research update which revealed that in comparing the 2011 and 2007 surveys, according to the survey respondents, cyberbullying behaviour is now most rampant on social networking platforms. Also, as young people abandon email in favour of phone-based text messaging, text messaging now replaces email as the second most common platform for cyberbullying (Kids Help Phone Research Update, “Cyberbullying Reality Check” (2012)).
- A 2010 research project “Cyber Bullying Behaviors Among Middle and High School Students” studied 33 Toronto junior high and high schools and reported that 49.5% of students surveyed had been bullied online. In all three of these studies, a majority of participants report that they did not tell anyone about the bullying (Faye Mishna et al, “Cyber Bullying Behaviors Among Middle and High School Students”, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, (2010, Vol. 80, No. 3, 362–374).
- Dr. Shariff’s research study in elementary and high schools in Montreal, where over 500 students grades 6-9 (11-15 years old) were surveyed; found that 95% had internet access in their homes (Shaheen Shariff, and Andrew H Churchill, “Truths and Myths of Cyber-bullying: International perspectives on stakeholder responsibility and children's safety” (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. (2009)).
- The Canadian Teachers Federation commissioned poll (2008) showed that 34% of Canadians surveyed knew of students in their community who had been targeted by cyberbullying in the past year while one in five were aware of teachers who had been cyberbullied. The poll also showed that almost one in 10 knew someone close to them who had been cyberbullied. Canadian teachers ranked cyberbullying as their issue of highest concern from the six listed options with 89% suggesting bullying and violence are serious problems in our public schools (N.S.T.U. Cyberbullying Statistics, “National Issues in Education Poll” Canadian Teachers’ Federation (2008)).
- In 2007, Kids Help Phone administered a survey of 2,474 young people aged 13-15, where over 70% of respondents reported having been bullied online and 44% reported having bullied someone at least once. The same study also revealed that many kids were unaware that cyber-space is not personal, and that flow of information is difficult or impossible to control (A Kids Help Phone Research Study of Kids Online,“Cyberbullying: Our Kids’ New Reality” (April, 2007)).