Cyberbullying in Canada has reached a new high. Much like in other countries around the world, bullying has become a major problem for both teens and adults alike. When cyberbullying attacks are included, the numbers are even more staggering. With the addition of the internet, stalkers and bullies have more avenues than ever to attack their victims. The increase in the number of attacks, plus the brutality of the crimes being committed behind the facade of a computer screen have forced lawmakers to begin drafting legislation to deal with the predators.
What Is Cyberbullying
The definition of cyberbullying is the sending or posting of unsolicited, malicious, mean, hurtful and demeaning messages over any device that uses the internet, anonymously or otherwise. Bullying in and of itself has been around since the beginning of time. The addition of the internet allows bullies a new, much more powerful advantage than they have ever had in the past. Unlike other forms of bullying, cyber attackers can harass and bully their victims anonymously and in real time.
The introduction of smartphones, laptops and tablets also gives cyberbullies an advantage. They can move from place to place, quickly and efficiently, making it much more difficult for law enforcement officers to track them down or trace their movements. It also means they can get extremely close to their intended victim without making themselves outwardly known. The anonymity offered by the internet not only increases the level of control they have over their victim but also allows them to come and go as they wish without ever causing a physical disturbance.
Facts About Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying facts show that there is an alarming number of cyberbullying cases being reported in Canada each day. In Canada, a few of the more well-known statistics include:
- Canadian youth are extremely active socially through the internet. According to www.prevnet.ca
- At least 94 percent of Canadian youth have accounts on Facebook
- While 87 percent have their own cell phone before they turn ten years old
- 1 in 3 Canadian youths report being the victim of a cyberbullying attack
- Almost one-quarter of Canadian youths report being involved in some type of cyberbullying behaviour
- Adolescents prefer to cyberbully fellow students because it offers them a sense of power while allowing them to remain anonymous
- Over 40 percent of Canadian youth that is caught claim that they were only joking and never intended to hurt anyone
- Will often create a fictitious social media account to bully another student and then delete the account if they feel they are going to be caught
Cyberbullying attacks are rising so quickly that certain agencies have started to tabulate statistics on a month to month basis.
Examples of Cyberbullying
There are several ways an attack can bully someone over the internet. One of the most common ways is through Facebook or other social media sites. With the right content, a cyberbully can upload incriminating photos, spread gossip and send messages either as themselves, with a name attached to a fictitious account or anonymously. Pictures can be taken from random accounts and names can be easily created. All a person needs to create a fake account is a valid email address and a little creativity.
One example of cyberbullying is sending repeated messages, in text, email, voice or chat. While social media sites like Facebook have added features to prevent individuals who do not have any connections or mutual friends from harassing another person, there are ways to bypass the safety features. Individuals who are being bullied through their Facebook and other social media accounts can choose to block individuals who continually send them unsolicited emails, texts or chats.
The Alberta affiliate of the Huffington Post recently ran a story about a father who was intent on suing the creators of a mobile app called “Communet”. It was devised for students to be used by students as a way of reaching out to one another. While the concept was well thought out, in the end, it became a bonafide way of allowing students to bully one another. Instead of being a friendly medium where students could share amongst themselves, it turned into a forum for bashing and bullying one another. Parents have quickly learned that many of the texts and messages sent through the app are sexist, hateful and extremely demeaning.
Stalking is also much easier when communication devices are used. Most smartphones, tablets and laptops are equipped with GPS locators that randomly include where a message is being sent from if the phone’s settings are public. Social media accounts also ask users to enable their GPS locators to gain and retrieve information about their users.
The problem with this is that when a homeowner leaves his internet connection open, any phone or mobile device will be able to connect and send information to individuals who know how to request it. A cyber stalker can retrieve information through pictures that are posted, statuses being posted as well as various messenger accounts.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can have devastating consequences for all involved. For the victim, the abuse they endure can leave lifelong emotional scars. The cyberbully can end up being charged with not only provincial but national level crimes and be incarcerated for several years. The victim of a cyber attack, in essence, has the rug pulled out from beneath them. They do not know who or why someone is attacking them. The one thing that can be the most unbalancing is the fact that they do not know where or how close the stalker is to them.
The cyberbully often gets caught up in the excitement of the moment. Knowing that their victim may not have any clue who is targeting them can give them a rush that lures them into a false sense of security. One mistake and a quick trace on behalf of the Canadian Royal Mounted Police Force can land them in jail with a large number of criminal charges.
Cyberbullies often become complacent with the fact that they can be whoever they want to be. It can be extremely easy to create an identity and then discontinue its use once the thrill is gone and the game is no longer any fun. The sense of remaining anonymous can be quite invigorating, especially to someone who has few friends or is often overlooked in real life.
The emotional issues that affect both victim and bully can last long after the actual bullying stops. Because the threats or attacks often take place on someone’s personal communication device, other people may not ever see the entries unless the victim decides to show someone. Unless either the bully or the victim slips and uses a regular PC or public computer, others near them may be completely oblivious to the situation that is taking place right under their noses.
Many government groups have dedicated themselves to putting a stop to cyberbullying and have asked the public at large to share their stories. While many are afraid and fear some type of retaliation, others are more than willing to let the public know what cyberbullies are truly capable of. One problem many national governments face is that someone in one country can attack a person halfway across the world by virtue of the internet.
An example of cyberbullying that resulted in the death of a 15-year old Vancouver, B.C. girl is just one of many reports of suicides that have been caused by internet bullies. A photo of the young girl who had supposedly “flashed” her friends during a party ended up in the hands of someone who threatened to post the picture online if the girl did not comply with their wishes and send more photos.
The person eventually used the photo to humiliate the girl and alienate her from her friends. She eventually posted a video online to relate her part of the story and a short time later took her own life. While the outcry of the public became apparent, many parents demanded answers as to why nothing had been done sooner to prevent the girls’ death.
When cyberbullying crimes are committed in Canada against United States citizens (and vice versa), both governments must find a way to legally resolve the issue between the two countries. Cyberbullying is a much less tangible crime than a bully who physically assaults their victims. When this type of activity occurs across national boundaries, an entirely new set of laws must be created to help bring the perpetrators to justice.
The World Wide Web is an intangible network that has the capability of reaching individuals at almost any given point on the planet. This extensive coverage transcends local, county and provincial boundaries. Laws that govern cyberbullying must be able to be interpreted and utilised at an international level. The majority of cases do not cross into the global realm, but they do exist. Most reports of cyberbullying are much closer to home.
Canada has federal laws in place that help to protect individuals from cyberbullying attacks. Provinces and territories also have laws in place that are original to their particular area. The Education Act of Ontario is one such piece of legislation. Designed to protect students while they are on school grounds and during school activities, the Act has also included a section on bullying detailing what consequences may be possible if a person is found guilty of such a charge.
With one-third of all Canadian youth claiming they have been the victim of cyberbullying, much of the behaviour occurs within one’s own neighbourhood or school system. Local and national law enforcement agencies have had to adapt traditional laws that pertain to bullying behaviours to cover threats and unwanted forms of communications sent via the internet. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police urge individuals who have experienced a cyberbullying attack to document it in great detail.
The more information the RCMP has available to them is beneficial when charges against the perpetrator are actually filed in court. It will also help the police to determine what laws were actually broken and which charges may be applied legally to the situation.
Unlike physical bullying where the two parties involved are within close proximity to one another, a person can be a victim of cyberbullying by a predator who is across town or across the country. Knowing their rights as a victim and what laws are available to protect them can be vitally important when trying to get justice.
Threats, verbal assaults, harassing messages and posts that involve sexual exploitation are considered to be illegal and should be reported to the local authorities as soon as they are received. Students should take them directly to their school administrator and let the school involve the local police. It is important that all messages be saved or stored on the device to be used as evidence.