The following information can help educators fully understand cyberbullying and its consequences.
Cyberbullying involves the use of technology (e.g., social networking websites, text messaging, instant messaging, smart phones, webcams, YouTube, chat rooms and email) to hurt or intimidate others, their reputation or their relationships. Research suggests that cyberbullying is the most significant danger young people face online.
Examples of cyberbullying include but are not limited to sending hurtful emails, creating mean and hurtful web pages or blog sites, posting rude, modified or digitally manipulated photographs or videos about someone to a public space.
Cyberbullying differs from traditional bullying in that it does not happen in face-to-face interactions. This means that a potential bully may have fewer inhibitions as a result of not having to face the other person or the bully may even remain anonymous, which further limits the consequences of this negative behaviour. In cyberbullying, the bully does not necessarily have to be the older, stronger, bigger, more popular student (although sometimes these dynamics are still in place), but rather any student could adopt the power of a ‘bully’ persona. Finally, cyberbullying occurs in a ‘public domain’, which means that negative text or images can be seen and shared extensively and repeatedly and can be difficult for the victim to dispose of completely or permanently. Cyberbullying can take place both at school and at home, so for a victimized child there is often no escape.
Cyberbullying and the Law
Some forms of cyberbullying are considered criminal acts. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is a crime to communicate repeatedly to someone if your communication causes them to fear for their own safety or the safety of others. It is also a crime to publish a “defamatory libel” writing something that is designed to insult a person or likely hurt a person’s reputation by exposing him/her to hatred, contempt or ridicule. Under Bill C-13, now makes it illegal to distribute intimate images of a person without their consent. Under this bill, police only need “reasonable grounds for suspicion” to get a warrant to obtain information about an Internet user.
A cyberbully may also be violating the Canadian Human Rights Act if he/she spreads hate or discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or disability.