To better understand
With new technologies on the rise and social media gaining in popularity, cyberspace has become part of our reality, for adults and teens alike. Online platforms let teens talk to each other, meet new people, and learn about new things. But unfortunately, some kids use cyberspace as a venue to bully their peers.
This is called cyberbullying—or bullying in the online world. It can take the form of insults, belittling, rumors or threats. Some teens even take it a step further by posting pictures or videos of their peers online to hurt them or publicly humiliate them. The anonymity of cyberspace can make some teens feel free to behave unacceptably online.
But like actual bullying, it can have devastating effects on teens, causing victims to experience a decrease in their self-esteem, social isolation, stress, anxiety, and even symptoms of depression. It can also make them feel helpless because of the public—and potentially permanent—nature of the posts about them. But cyberbullying doesn’t only affect the victims; it also affects the witnesses, the teens who are doing the cyberbullying, and the people around them.
In fact, cyberbullying affects everyone, at all levels: families, schools and communities. It doesn’t matter what they’re like or how they behave: Any teenager can become a victim, a witness, or a perpetrator of cyberbullying. But there are ways to prevent and fight back against this issue. And as a parent, you have a major role to play!
• 6 % of teens report having been cyberbullied at least once during the school year.
• Girls are twice as likely to be cyberbullied (8%) than boys (4%).
To better support
- Explain to your teen how respect, empathy, and compassion are the foundations for positive relationships with their peers, both online and in real life.
- Talk to your teen about appropriate, respectful online behaviours.
- Talk to your teen about cyberbullying, including its different forms and impacts, and ways to prevent and respond to it.
- Encourage your teen to speak out against cyberbullying (express their disagreement, don’t share the post, offer support to the victim, ask a trusted adult for help) and take action against it.
- If you’ve noticed signs that your teen is being cyberbullied (for example, they seem upset after checking their phone), express your concerns gently and openly.
- If you think your teen is cyberbullying someone, you need to deal with the situation as quickly as possible. Gently explain to your teen the consequences of their words and actions, let them know you’re upset about their behaviour, and explain the legal consequences of their actions. (See this page for information about the legal consequences of cyberbullying.)
- Walk your teen through the online world; discuss privacy settings, security measures, and how to interact and browse responsibly online.
- Monitor your teen’s online activities (who they’re talking to, their online relationships, the social media platforms they’re using) while still giving them some privacy.
- If your teen is being cyberbullied, take swift action together (e.g., keep a record of the conversations with the cyberbully, cut off contact with them, block them, change usernames and passwords, and report the cyberbullying).
- If your teen tells you they’ve experienced or witnessed cyberbullying, don’t respond by punishing them in some way (for example, by removing their online privileges). Penalizing your teen sends the message that the cyberbullying is their fault, which is not the case. Reacting negatively also decreases the chances your teen will confide in you in the future.
- Support your teen in developing the personal and social skills they need to stand up for themselves, set boundaries, communicate respectfully, and ask for help when needed.
- If your teen comes to you and tells you they’re being cyberbullied, hear them out and offer support without pushing too hard for information. Come up with a game plan to stop the cyberbullying.
- If your teen is the one doing the cyberbullying, try to figure out what’s behind their words or actions and talk about alternatives to violence and the importance of respecting others. Work with qualified outside resources (health and social services professionals, school staff) to come up with a plan to stop the cyberbullying.
- Whether your teen is a victim, witness, or perpetrator of cyberbullying, don’t trivialize the impact it can have on their life. Offer your support and make sure your teen knows where to find help (health and social services professionals, school staff).
- Help to redefine social norms. Never trivialize violence; in fact, have a zero-tolerance policy for it, whether online or in real life.
- Create a culture of caring and support at home and encourage your teen to help others.
- Be a positive role model for your teen by being respectful online yourself and by speaking out against cyberbullying.
- Build trust at home so your teen will want to confide in you and ask for help if they’re being cyberbullied.
- When the situation comes up in movies or TV shows, take the opportunity to talk to your teen about cyberbullying. For example, ask them how they’d react if their friend was being cyberbullied and what they could do to help.
- Ask your teen what they think about certain online comments or behaviours. For example, you might ask them: “Do you think it would be okay to say that to someone standing right in front of you?” If they say no, then it’s not okay online either!
- Unfortunately, cyberbullying is a reality for some teens. And as a parent, you have a major role to play in preventing and fighting it.
- Whether you’re helping your teen to develop their personal and social skills, guiding them through the digital world, or building trust and respect at home, you’re helping to prevent cyberbullying.
- If your teen confides in you about cyberbullying, thank them for trusting you, show them kindness and compassion, and listen to them without judging them. Then come up with a game plan to stop the cyberbullying. Don’t hesitate to reach out to outside resources for help (school staff, health and social services professionals).
Resources and practical tools
1. For support:
If you are concerned about a situation, do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a healthcare professional:
If you fear for your teen’s or your own safety, call 911 or your local police department.
Latest updates: october 2022