Cyberbullying of Children in Canada

Introduction

The digitalization process across the globe not only opened a way for new advancement but enhanced pre-existing problems as well. One of these problems includes the issue of bullying, which is especially painful for the children of the school age. The enhancement has led to the emergence of a derived issue called cyberbullying. It is specifically actual for the state of Canada, due to the relatively high rates of the cyberbullying perpetration. However, according to Riddell, Pepler, & Craig (2018), “A number of highly publicized Canadian cases have underscored the significant implications of involvement in cyberbullying” (p. 39). In other words, the studies of Canadian cyberbullying remain valuable because of the ongoing process of defining and opposing the phenomenon.

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There are several more aspects of cyberbullying which require careful aim in researching. Firstly, the definition of the phenomenon, despite the explanations in the official legislative sources of Canada, is still not entirely clear. Secondly, what is more important, the scientists face the question of whether cyberbullying should be treated as a subsection of traditional bullying or as a separate matter. The goal of the current study is to prove the thesis that while cyberbullying is significantly related to the bullying in general, it still should be viewed through a prism of its specifics. To accomplish the task, one needs to define the essential qualities of the cyberbullying. Then, it will become possible to analyze the matter in comparison with the usual bullying practices. The results will unveil the differences in their content, as well as the best measures of preventing and intervening.

The Necessity of Definition

One must comprehend the reasons for worrying about the tendency of children cyberbullying in Canada to realize why it demands detailed clarification. One of these are the facts of several brutal cases which turned out to be a direct result of cyberbullying activity. These acts caused a national and international resonance and served as a prerequisite for the government and society to approach the issue more attentively. Among everything else, the officials and the researchers began to seek both the term’s exact meaning and the keys of its solution. Although the definition varies in-between the sources, the phenomenon possesses such general characteristics as permanence, ill intent, and harmful consequences. Nonetheless, the cyberbullying also has several unique traits defined by the possibilities of the Internet.

First, it should be highlighted that according to Deschamps, & McNutt (2016), the resonance of cyberbullying became apparent after the suicides of three Canadian youths in 2012-2013. These suicides proved not only the weight of the problem, but the demand to search for the means of preventing and protecting. There is no surprise why the government of Canada proceeded with the official formulation of the cyberbullying term, followed by the same procedures on the level of provinces. Researchers note that “While the provinces have varied responses, they all tend to define cyberbullying as either harm or misconduct” (Deschamps, & McNutt, 2016, p. 56). Provincial terminology, though explicit enough, still does not entirely accentuate on the similarities and differences with the usual bullying process.

The terminology focuses only on the display of the bullying in the Internet space, as in blogs, messages, and other types of communication. However, according to Beran, Mishna, McInroy, & Shariff (2015), “The similarities and differences between offline bullying and cyberbullying are complicated and contentious” (p. 208). In other words, the exact correlation between parent bullying and its derived phenomenon of cyberbullying should be primarily highlighted instead. Despite their intertwined natures, it is possible to notice that cyberbullying requites an approach which is somewhat distinct in comparison to the bullying itself.

On the one hand, one must mention the similarities which lead to the deep connection between the two. Firstly, the cyberbullying is directed by the same intentions as the regular bullying, namely, to harm and oppress the victim. Secondly, the harmful aims are furthered by the permanence of the abuse, which is the constant characteristics of both. And, thirdly, both result in massive psychological consequences, such as depression, mental illness and, in extreme cases, even suicide attempts.

On the other hand, the display of the cyberbullying contains the exact feature that allows drawing a definite line which separates it from the parent phenomenon. The Internet presents an array of tools to employ the abuse with the methods unavailable for the bullying itself. The messaging, blogs, or commentaries give a lot of opportunities to the perpetrators and even change their face as well. Firstly, the animosity usually allows hiding the real face of the abuser. As a result, cyberbullying can be conducted even by the individuals who do not have strength or means to perform it in the actual life. Secondly, cyberbullying opens a way to pursue the victims despite the distance and their current location. Thirdly, the psychological harm seems to be especially significant, compared to the bullying and results, according to Espelage, & Hong (2016), to higher risks.

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Not all the researchers agree on the essential degree of distinctiveness of the cyberbullying. Patchin & Hinduja state that even with the differences of environment, one needs careful investigation on the theme of the intersection between bullying and cyberbullying (as cited in Beran, Mishna, McInroy, & Shariff, 2015). While the investigation part is quite an accurate statement, it is still hard to deny that the key features of cyberbullying somewhat set it apart from the bullying.

The Solutions and Questions About Them

After the previously mentioned cases of cyberbullying suicide, Canada has developed not just only the search of definitions, but the practical measures to counteract the phenomenon. The educational steps appear to be of particular interest since cyberbullying victimization and perpetration is especially frequent between the children of school age. According to Beran, Mishna, McInroy, & Shariff (2015), “Cyber-interactions may mirror the complex dynamics of power and control that exist in some peer relationships at school and in the neighbourhood” (p. 212). So, the problem of the school cyberbullying stays as one of the main fields to develop the strategies against it.

First, one should state that Canada’s legislative measures have a purpose of bringing public awareness of the cyberbullying issues as one of the methods to solve them, as well as to punish the perpetrators. Hence, the researchers note that, for example, “The Safe Schools Act has been changed to include cyberbullying, which allows consequences such as suspension or expulsions among students perpetrating bullying” (Kim, Boyle, & Georgiades, 2018, p. 473). And the event can be treated only as a tip of the iceberg since the legislative changes suited for the cyberbullying continue their development up to the current date.

However, the change in the laws might not be the only tool for preventing cyberbullying activity. The researchers muse about the topic which measures should be viewed as the most effective. Such changes include the propaganda of the cautious Internet use and avoiding the bullying in the net, the careful attention of the health workers and informing the parents about the problem.

In the case of the first one, one should emphasize that Canada is not the prime supplier of the ideas of the educational ways of preventing the cyberbullying. According to Espelage, & Hong (2016), the successful interventions were shown, particularly, in the USA and Germany– the cybersecurity curriculum from the former and the curriculum program from of the latter. However, it does not mean that Canada does not care about developing such programs. There is a Missing cyber safety program, which, as the researchers note, serves a purpose of educating the youth through a course of the cyber safety measures (Riddell, Pepler., & Craig, 2018). The program shows that although Canada does not always generate the projects, but the state and its members remain capable of achieving such feats if required.

Regarding the second set of measures, they represent the previously mentioned fact that the cyberbullying seriously affects mental health. According to Espelage, & Hong (2016), “In the past few years, primary care health care providers have been urged to take a more active role in preventing the long-term health consequences associated with youth bullying” (p. 376). In other words, the range of the social workers’ specialty includes both the social workup meant for prevention, as well as the psychological aid to those who already suffered the cyberbullying itself.

Finally, the third set of measures must teach the parents about the importance of connecting with children and staying on guard in the digital sphere. According to Deschamps, & McNutt (2016), the example of Nova Scotia province decided to accentuate the role of the authorities for the cyberbullying prevention, and these authorities mainly include the children’s’ parents. Since cyberbullying frequently happens because of the lack of attention from parents, this also should be one of the policies that help in preventing the issues in the very beginning.

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Due to the variety of the methods, the question stands which one of them should be treated as the most effective. Since the school-age children often do not possess the self-awareness to protect themselves from the Internet abuse, parenting role may be considered as the most crucial. However, after getting older, the children would be gradually able to discern the dangers for themselves. At that point, the value of parental awareness diminishes in comparison to the educative process and its consequences. However, not all the researchers could agree on that opinion. For instance, Espelage., & Hong (2016) highlight the achievement of the German psychological curriculum, which unites both the components of an educational program and the social workers’ role. While it is correct that cyberbullying prevention usually requires a sophisticated approach, if one needs to prevent it, then parents should be treated as a prime tool of intervention. After all, children typically demonstrate more trust in disclosing the possibly hidden issues of cyberbullying. Subsequently, it becomes possible for parents to intervene in the earliest stages, especially in cases when cyberbullying emerges in the earlier phases of education.

Conclusions

In the end, one must admit that in the Canadian context, cyberbullying of children remains a complex phenomenon with enough space for further researches. However, it does not make the matter less demanding, which is why the need for discerning bullying and cyberbullying still arises. The same can be said about determining the most effective ways of preventing, protecting, and intervening in the cyberbullying issue. After study’s conduction, one can form two definitive conclusions – about the distinctiveness of cyberbullying compared to bullying and about the crucial role of parents in preventing the risks.

The problem became the most apparent for Canada after several resonant suicides committed by the children who were the victims of cyberbullying. Subsequently, the government took measures to define the term in the legislative documents so that they could deal with it. Though the definitions are quite detailed, they lack the accent on the actual difference between bullying and cyberbullying. The latter appeared as a relative of former, and they still share several key treats, including the ill intent, the permanence, and the psychological results. However, bullying can be set apart with its means, which determine its specifics. Those specifics consist of anonymity, ignorance of distance, and higher amount of mental damage.

Due to the resonance, Canada has focused on three methods of preventing the cyberbullying. Firstly, the educational programs must teach safety in the net for the kids. Secondly, the parents must play a more active role in monitoring their children’s movements to prevent abuse or intervene. Thirdly, social workers are required to take a significant part in education as well, especially in the psychological aspect. The parental role appears to be the most significant of all, due to the parents’ ability to survey the danger in the earliest years of children using the Internet. Nonetheless, the complexity of the prevention measures with the involvement of several areas would still enhance the result.

References

Beran, T., Mishna, F., McInroy, L. B., & Shariff, S. (2015). Children’s experiences of cyberbullying: A Canadian national study. Children & Schools, 37(4), 207-214.

Deschamps, R., & McNutt, K. (2016). Cyberbullying: What’s the problem? Canadian Public Administration, 59(1), 45-71.

Espelage, D. L., & Hong, J. S. (2016). Cyberbullying prevention and intervention efforts: Current knowledge and future directions. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 62(6), 374-380.

Kim, S., Boyle, M. H., & Georgiades, K. (2018). Cyberbullying victimization and its association with health across the life course: A Canadian population study. Can J Public Health, 108(5-6), 468-474.

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Riddell, J., Pepler, D., & Craig, W. (2018). Cyberbullying in Canada. In A. C. Baldry, C. Blaya, &D. P. Farrington (Eds.), International Perspectives on Cyberbullying (pp. 39-63). Springer International Publishing.

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