Canadian Cyberbullying Guide

bullied at school
Picture Source: Pixabay

When we read that 89% of Canadian teachers reporting cyberbullying as their #1 concern, we knew we had to do something. So we created this Cyberbullying Guide with real life examples, current laws (both national and provincial), emerging issues, and what we can do to combat it.

What is Bullying?

By definition, bullying refers to repeated, aggressive behavior – physical, verbal, or social – that is meant to deliberately exclude someone from a group, intimidate them, or threaten their safety. It is important to note that bullying behavior is UNWANTED and can affect both children and adults. Bullying often occurs in a school setting or workplace and is a result of an unequal balance of power between the perpetrator and the victim.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a type of bullying behavior that uses electronic technology, and the internet to intimidate or harass someone. This behavior is characterized by repetitive behavior or behavior that has the potential to be repetitive. It is important to note that cyberbullying continues to evolve and take on new forms as our use of technology advances. Some forms of cyberbullying include:

  • Sending/posting intimidating or disparaging messages, rumors, or threats to/about another person through email, text messages, forums, social media, chatrooms, etc.
  • Ostracizing victims, for instance, from online social events or social media sites
  • Inappropriately tagging someone in a photo
  • Defamation of character (without legal cause)
  • Harassment/stalking
  • Distribution of a person’s intimate images without their consent
  • Deceiving a person to give up personal or private information about him/herself with the intention of using it to humiliate or harm them
  • Taking on the identity of the victim to further perpetuate a negative perception of that individual
  • Perpetuating hate speech or discrimination against someone

Cyberbullying Terminology

  • Bash Board: online space where people can post anonymously, can be used to post negative or harmful messages
  • Cyberbullicide: online assisted suicide
  • Cyberstalking: electronic communication, such as messages, posts, emails, or texts used to harass and intimidate someone
  • Cyberthreats: potential attempts to damage/ disrupt a computer network or system using malware
  • Denigration: posting or messaging harmful rumors and other false statements
  • Doxing: publishing or outing private or identifying information about a person without their consent and with malicious intent
  • Exclusion: deliberately keeping a person from participating in community or social events online such as in a chat room
  • False Reporting: false reports of bullying, usually in a school setting
  • Flaming: publicly harassing (oftentimes using videos or multimedia) another person through insults and humiliating messages, similar to denigration, but with the added element of spectacle
  • Friending/Unfriending: electronically removing someone as a ‘friend’ on Facebook as a means of ostracizing that person or showing contempt for them, oftentimes used in the workplace to bully a coworker
  • Happy Slapping: when a group of people gang up on an individual and physically assault him/her in order to record the attack electronically
  • Impersonation: pretending to be another person for the purpose of entertainment or fraud
  • Outing: revealing a person’s homosexuality with the intent to harm their reputation or humiliate them
  • Porn Revenge: posting explicit, sexual portrayal of an individual without their consent, usually uploaded to pornagraphic websites by angry ex-lovers
  • Trickery: fooling a person into giving up private or secret information about themselves that will later be used against them
  • Trolling: another term for cyberbullying

Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying can happen 24/7 and can affect the victim even when the perpetrator(s) is not physically present.

Canadian Statistics on Bullying

  • 47% of Canadian parents have reported that their child has experienced bullying (Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
  • 64% of Canadian students reported being bullied at school (1999 University of BC)

Canadian Statistics on Cyberbullying

  • 89% of Canadian teachers reported cyberbullying as the #1 concern in public schools (Red Cross)
  • 16% of students reported someone posting an embarrassing photo of them (Stop a Bully)
  • 12% of students reported having their accounts hacked (Stop a Bully)
  • 73% of cyberbullying victims receive threats via texts, emails, or instant messaging (Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
  • 40% of Canadian workers experience bullying in the workplace on a regular basis (Canadian Institutes of Health Research)
  • Bullying peaks for boys in 9th grade at 47% and usually involves physical bullying; bullying peaks for girls in grades, 6th, 8th, and 9th at 37% and is usually indirect and online (Red Cross 2010 Study)
  • 80% of bullying occurs with peers present and 57% of the time, bullying stops within 10 secs when someone intervenes (Red Cross)
  • 1 in 4 educators have been cyberbullied (Stop a Bully)
  • Cyberbullying against the LGBTQ community is 3x more likely to occur than against others (Canadian Institutes of Health Research)

Canadian Laws – National

incident reports by province
Picture Source:

Bill C-13: An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act,,. the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act

As of March 10, 2015, it is now illegal to distribute intimate images and videos of a person without that person’s consent. This extends to adults now, not just children. This law authorizes the removal of intimate images and videos, forfeiture of property used in distributing images, recognizance order to prevent distribution of images and technology restrictions imposed on the convicted offender, and recovery of expenses incurred to obtain removal of such images *Photos/videos can originate from a person willingly sharing intimate photos of his/herself with a boy/girlfriend and then having that photo shared as a form of “revenge” and without the person’s consent (usually at the end of a relationship)

National anti-cyberbullying laws fall under two jurisdictions, Civil law and Criminal law, depending on the nature of the activities.

Civil Law

  • Defamatory libel and slander – spreading false information
  • Creating an Unsafe Environment – schools and places of employment are required to maintain safe learning and working environments and are responsible for providing appropriate recourse in bullying situations. This now extends to cyberbullying.
  • Liability – offender is responsible for the consequences of their actions that they might reasonably have guessed could happen, including suicide of the victim

Criminal Law

  • Criminal harassment – repeated threats, intimidation online through tests, emails, phone calls that threaten a person’s safety
  • Defamatory libel – involves attacking an authority through libelous action and has a detrimental affect on their reputation

Provinces that have cyberbullying laws:


  • Zero tolerance anti-bullying polies for schools
  • The Education Act defines bullying as “repeated and hostile or demeaning behavior by an individual in the school community where the behavior is intended to cause harm, fear or distress to one or more other individuals in the school community…”
  • The Alberta legislation is important because it also requires students to report cyberbullying. Students can actually be suspended or expelled if they witness, but fail to report, cyberbullying.


  • Requires school boards to create anti-bullying plans and requires school staff to implement and enforce these plans
  • In 2013, the Education Act was changed to include and define bullying as “behavior, typically repeated, that is intended to cause or should be known to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property, and can be direct or indirect, and includes assisting or encouraging the behavior in any way…” This extends to cyberbullying.


  • Cyberbullying law currently in legislature – if passed, will redefine bullying to include cyberbullying
  • Acceptable Use Policy and policies that accommodate diversity and gay-straight alliance groups
  • All cyberbullying must be reported to administration and punishment extends to original perpetrator and all those associated in assisting/ promoting that behavior

New Brunswick

  • Requires educators to report cyberbullying to administration and requires schools to offer support and counseling for both victims and perpetrators.
  • Education Act includes online and offline bullying as “serious misconduct”

Nova Scotia

  • Nova Scotia enacted the Cyber-Safety Act to allow victims of cyberbullying to request protection orders, limit cyberbully’s actions, and forced cyberbullies to identify themselves. The Act also held parents accountable for their child’s cyberbullying behavior. However, the Act was ruled unconstitutional in a December 2015 court challenge. The Department of Justice is now drafting new legislation.


  • Safe Schools Act requires schools to implement lessons on bullying prevention to its students each year and have a bully prevention plan
  • Education Act clearly defines bullying as “aggressive and typically repeated behavior of a pupil” and includes cyberbullying now

Cyberbullying Issues in 2016:

types of bullying reported
Picture Source:


As of January 2016, in the wake of the Twitter Harassment case in Toronto, criminal harassment (when digital) is hard to prosecute because it could infringe upon the right to free speech. The judge ruled that the perpetrator was not aware of his harassing behavior and that the victims had no reason to be fearful as a result. The defendant was found not guilty and charges against him were dismissed. Based on the verdict of this case, harassment will not be considered criminal unless there is a physical element or violent language is used repeatedly against the victim.

Negative Consequences of Bullying Bullying, regardless of its severity, has a negative impact on both the perpetrator and the victim. In the most extreme cases, we see victims of bullying take their own lives or experience chronic and debilitating depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and, in some cases, become the aggressor. In terms of the negative effects on the aggressor, bullies who do not receive help have an increased chance of alcohol and drug abuse, violent altercations, criminal charges, and perpetrating domestic abuse toward their spouse and children.

Dispelling Myths

The majority of people who experience bullying have thoughts of suicide.

False- the majority of people who get bullied live normal, healthy lives. In fact, other factors, including race, sexual orientation, mental health, and trauma history also play a role in whether or not a person will try to commit suicide.

We should only help the victim.

False- It is just as important to get the bully help, as those who do not receive help have an increased chance of alcohol and drug abuse, violent altercations, criminal charges, and perpetrating domestic abuse.

This is just ‘kids being kids’

False- While most people have experienced some form of bullying over their lives, it is wrong to simply write off this behavior, as there are proactive measures to help children and young adults develop in healthy and constructive ways.

Kids should be expected to stand up to bullies

Adults and teachers expect students to stand up for a classmate who is being bullied. This is an unrealistic expectation and it is unfair to put this responsibility on a child when most adults would be reluctant to put themselves out there for a colleague who is being unfairly treated at work.

Strategies to Combat Bullying

1. Changing the Way We Speak

woman bullied
Picture Source: pixabay

For parents and educators, our behavior, treatment, and views about new or different ideas, lifestyles, and technology indirectly affect how our children and students perceive and accept differences and diversity among their peers. The younger generations have always been the victims of disapproving members of the older generation. When there is a technological advance the older generations don’t understand or when new trends in music or pop culture aren’t similar to their generations experience, they make cliché comments such as “kids these days…” or “kids nowadays are so rude and inconsiderate,” or “what is the world coming to.” These are put downs and could be categorized as bullying behavior because they are meant to undermine or devalue another person’s experience.

Let’s challenge these notions. What if we changed our language to reflect how diversity and change excite us and make us more enriched people? For example, the children in this video exhibit negative reactions to new foods- a rather close-minded approach. Although it may seem harmless at first, this same attitude leads people to develop negative perspectives about different people and cultures.

As a parent or educator, we should have an open mind when faced with an unfamiliar situations or belief systems.

2. Teaching Empathy

Being aware of how our own feelings can impact our behavior toward a child is important. Teachers sometimes fall into the trap of labeling students based on other faculty members’ perceptions from previous years or long histories can create biases that don’t change even though the child is maturing.

As a teacher, create a mental list of character traits for each student. This list should include at least one redeeming quality, a vulnerability, and something funny or kind that student said or did recently. Share the positive traits about each student with fellow faculty members. See how those faculty members respond. Keep the vulnerability private but recall it to yourself if you find that you are feeling particularly negative toward that child.

Next, teach your students empathy through your own actions. Be inclusive of all students in a discussion- not just the ones who are the most verbal. Sometimes having students quietly journal for two minutes before asking for verbal responses allows time for other students to formulate their thoughts .Teach students to use language that validates another person’s feelings even if they do not agree.

Here is a great video that portrays empathy and can be used as a springboard for discussion. This plot shows two different ways a quiet newcomer is treated when she goes to college. You can ask the kids how you think that they would feel if they were in her situation.

3. Bullying and the Gifted

In the last decade, there has been a shift in attitude toward the idea of Giftedness. Often times school districts are resistant to acknowledging Gifted students, making the claim that “all students are gifted” and refusing to make academic accommodations for that child. It is important to acknowledge that Giftedness does exist in about 6% of the population (usually IQs over 130) and that 2% of the population is considered as genius or extremely high functioning (IQs over 180).

Many Gifted students make easy targets for bullies, as quirky or atypical behavior is confused as weird. They can be misdiagnosed as having a personality disorder or their asynchronous development can lead to problems connecting with others socially.

You can help by talking about their “atypical” behavior in a positive light. Educators can use curriculum compacting techniques that allow the student to delve deeper into a particular topic and explore multiple outcomes. Resist the urge to have the child act as a tutor to other children when they finish their own work.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Cyberbullying is a very real problem with major consequences for our children and our country. However, if we all take a few small steps, we can make a big impact. Politicians should create new legislation targeting this growing problem. Parents and Teachers should lead by example and teach our children what to do if they’re getting bullied, and where they can get help. And everybody can be more tolerant to diverse cultures and raise the level of discourse in our country.

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