Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 6 - Evidence - December 12, 2011
OTTAWA, Monday, December 12, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 4:03 p.m.
to study the issue of cyber-bullying in Canada with regard to Canada's
international human rights obligations under Article 19 of the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Senator Mobina S. B. Jaffer (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, this is the seventh meeting of the
Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights of the Forty-first Parliament.
This committee has been mandated by the Senate to conduct reviews of issues
related to human rights, both in Canada and abroad.
My name is Mobina Jaffer and I welcome you to this hearing.
On March 15, 2001, the Rules of the Senate were amended in order to
create a new standing committee, the Standing Senate Committee on Human
Rights. This committee has a number of functions, in particular to educate
the public, to ensure the proper enforcement and respect for international
human rights legislation and principles, and to ensure that Canadian laws
and policies are properly enforced, in accordance with the Canadian Charter
of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
On November 23, our committee tabled a report on the sexual exploitation
of children. During our study, we focused on the causes of sexual
exploitation of children, emphasizing the role of the Internet. Here it was
brought to our attention that the Internet has broadened the scope of sexual
exploitation by facilitating direct and anonymous contact.
After identifying the role the Internet plays in regard to sexual
exploitation of children, our committee decided to further examine ways in
which the Internet compromises the safety of our children. On November 30,
2011, our committee was given the mandate to examine and report upon the
issue of cyber-bullying in Canada with regard to Canada's human rights
obligations under Article 19 of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights
of the Child.
It has been brought to our committee's attention that the face of
bullying has changed, for it has moved from classrooms and school yards into
our homes by way of the Internet. In addition to the social, verbal and
physical abuse, many children today are forced to endure cyber-bullying,
which is yet another challenge.
Cyber-bullying, as defined by the Montreal police, is the posting of
threatening, offensive or degrading messages about someone using words or
images; it also includes harassment. Cyber-bullying takes place through
emails, in chat rooms, discussion groups, websites and through instant
This is a problem that many of our young people are facing. In fact,
recent studies have indicated that 25 per cent of young net surfers say they
have received hate messages about other people by email. Thirty-four per
cent of 9-to-17- year olds say that they have been victims of bullying
during the school year. Of these, 27 per cent were victims of cyber-
Without protection and assistance, many children who are victims of
cyber-bullying are left to face these new challenges alone. Our committee
intends to examine ways in which we both protect and assist our children.
This marks our first meeting on the cyber-bullying study, and our first
witness is Mr. Bill Belsey, President and founder of Bullying.org. He is
also a creator of www.cyberbullying.org, the world's first website about the
issue of cyber-bullying. He is often cited as the person who first
introduced this word into common usage. Finally, Mr. Belsey is an
award-winning educator from Alberta, and currently teaches grade 5 at
Springbank Middle School.
We are glad you are here, Mr. Belsey. You made the long trip from Alberta
and we are looking forward to your comments.
Bill Belsey, President, Bullying.org: Thank you for this honour to
be here with you. When I told my grade 5 social studies students who are
studying Canada that I was going to be coming here, they said, Mr. Belsey,
could we pass along some messages for you to share? I might do that a little
later, if you do not mind.
It is hard to distill decades worth of work into 20 minutes. As you have
the presentation I created in front of you, I will not speak to every point,
because there are far more than might be allowed during the 20 minutes.
I would say that in addition to being a middle school teacher, I am a
dad. I have a son and a teenage daughter, so this issue of cyber-bullying is
one I understand on many levels — as a teacher who teaches extensively with
technology, as a father who has teenage kids, and as someone who teaches in
the middle school, where the use of technology is like the air that this
There are four parts to the work of Bullying.org; one is our website,
www.cyberbulying.org, which is the world's most visited and referenced
website about bullying. The reason I am telling you that particular story is
I want you to understand where the term "cyber-bullying" came from.
Bullying.org is a safe place where kids can come and find help, support
and information. About 10 years ago, young people from parts of the world
like Scandinavia, Asia and parts of Europe began to share stories. I
realized the stories they were sharing were quite unique and, at that time,
had never been really understood before. I realized this was bullying but it
was happening now in cyberspace.
The term "cyberspace" comes from a Canadian science fiction author named
William Gibson. I am not a terribly original person, so I did take from him
that name cyberspace and put it together with bullying; I thought this is
bullying and it is happening in cyberspace, ergo the name. No, it is not
hyphenated; there is not a space in between. It is "cyberbullying,"
such as it is.
I will also let you know that in my classroom, if you Google "Canada's
coolest class" and hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button, you will come to
my class website.
On my class website, my students do creative writing in the form of
blogging. A few weeks ago, we were tweeting messages about the importance of
Remembrance Day. As fate would have it, The Globe and Mail got wind
of this and did a story about my grade eight students using Twitter in
Language Arts class, where they were writing concisely, which is hard to do,
about the importance of Remembrance Day. My students also use a television
studio in my classroom to create television shows, complete with a green
screen. We call it CHN, Canadian History News. My students use technology
extensively. I have a deep understanding of the positive, wonderful benefits
of using technology and education.
I would like to ask three questions to all the esteemed guests here. I
have asked these three questions to audiences, whether young people, adults
or CEOs of corporations across Canada and around the world. Last year, I was
the keynote speaker in Melbourne, Australia, where I presented before 5,000
educators, including Australia's Prime Minister. I asked them the same three
questions. I would ask you to respond to the questions by putting up your
The Chair: In committee, we will not do that.
Mr. Belsey: My apologies; I wanted to point out the depth of
bullying. When those three questions were asked, every hand of every group I
have ever asked has gone up.
The first definition I gave of "cyber-bullying," to really understand
what it is all about, was: Cyber-bullying involves the use of information
and communication technologies that support deliberate, repeated and hostile behaviour by an individual or group that is intended to harm others. The key
aspects are: It is deliberate, repeated and has intent to harm others. That
is what makes bullying, bullying. Whether it is physical, verbal,
psychological or social, those are the three key aspects that most of the
world's major researchers and academics agree upon. I am also quite proud
and pleased that some of my mentors, Dr. Debra Pepler and Dr. Wendy Craig,
will be speaking to you later today. They are some of the people who helped
me immensely in this understanding.
I want to try to distill 10 years of work to help you understand the
issue. Currently, Canadian families are dealing with this issue more often
than you might imagine. Many young Canadians — 99 per cent — are connected
to the Internet either at home, at school or on cellphones. As you heard a
while ago, the research shows that between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of
young people experience cyber-bullying, including death threats. In Nova
Scotia last year, two young ladies took their own lives because of this
issue. Although our kids are communicating and recreating in virtual worlds,
there are real life consequences to their online actions and behaviors. I
gave a presentation across Canada called "Virtual World — Real
Consequences." Young people have a superficial understanding of technology.
They know the buttons to push or to click to make a video and download it to
YouTube, but they do not begin to truly understand the real life
consequences that their actions online have for themselves and for others.
In my 30 years of education, I have had to do a lot of understanding and
deep learning about kids, how they learn and what is actually happening.
Part of that is brain research and common sense. Those of you who might be
mothers or fathers or grandparents will quickly know that tweens and teens
live in the moment, and brain research supports this. Kids very much live in
the moment and do not make connections between cause and effect. What are
the particular kinds of technologies that young people like to use? They
like instant messaging and texting. Imagine the teenage brain living in the
moment: the kids are using technologies that are of the moment, where a
cursor is flashing "send, send, send." It is no wonder that sometimes kids
will do and say things online that they might never do in real life.
Looking at it from a government perspective, would passing some kind of
legislation change the mind of a 14-year- old girl who is jilted because her
boyfriend left her for another girl? When she has that cellphone in her hand
and is ready to send off that threatening text message, will she pause and
say, "Maybe I will not send it because a bill has been passed by the House
of Commons?" Likely not. That is the reality. It is almost like a crime of
passion — it is in the moment. I constantly try to have kids understand and
think before they click. It sounds trivial on one level but it is quite deep
on another level to have kids think before they click. It is important to
have kids understand that what they say and do online has real life
implications for them and for others and that what they do and say online,
they cannot take back.
A young man in Toronto came up to me and was crying. I asked him what was
wrong. He said, " Mr. Belsey, I do not normally party but one weekend I
did. Mr. Belsey, I never really drink, but this one weekend I did. I drank
too much and I partied and I got sick. Everybody took photos and videos and
posted them online. Mr. Belsey, I heard in your presentation how colleges
and universities are not only looking at our marks but also at online
profiles and behaviors. Mr. Belsey, I want to become an oncologist, and I am
worried that despite my marks in the 90s, I might not be accepted by the
university. Mr. Belsey, my mom died a few years ago of cancer, and it is my
dream to become a doctor to help fight that disease. Now, I am worried that
because of one weekend — one indiscretion, that dream might be gone." This
is a different time that our kids are living in. It is a different time than
we grew up in, and we adults need to understand it as such.
The other reality is the families. If you are a young person and you
receive a text message that is a death threat, you are scared. You feel
alone, even if you are loved and supported at home. On the one hand you want
to tell your parents because you are so fearful, but on the other hand you
do not want to tell them because if you tell them, the situation might get
worse. If you tell your parents, they might lecture you and threaten to take
away your cellphone, et cetera. That only compounds the problem because for
today's teenagers, being connected to the Internet is not simply a matter of
convenience or way of conveying factual messages; being connected is
literally their social lifeblood. The cellphone is not simply a phone; it is
a powerful communicative tool. The phone that I hold in my hand is more
powerful than all the computing power it took to send a rocket to the moon
and back. If you will, this is not really a cellphone, because phoning is
the least of its use for young people. It is a hand-held, multimedia,
This combined with the Internet are the two most powerful communicative
tools in the history of mankind. For those who take it lightly, look at the
Arab spring and at what happened there. As a social studies teacher, I talk
to my students about the role of Twitter and text messaging and about how
governments that thought they were once mighty and powerful have fallen
because of social networking. If adults belittle this as some sort or
"tween" or teen chat thing, they misunderstand its power.
I will speak as a parent. Go to the Rideau Centre and you will see
parents, as the holidays approach, buying cellphones and cellphone contracts
for their kids. It used to be when we got our original phones back in the
day, there was a page and a half on what to do if you got a rude or
harassing phone call. Today, when you get a cellphone, there will be a
little manual on how to make a video and upload it to YouTube. Nowhere is
there the kind of information we need for parents to share with their kids
so they understand the positive potential as well as the negative
ramifications of having such a powerful tool in their hands. We parents
would no sooner give our kids the keys to the car and say "go for a drive
on the Queensway or Highway 401." Why then do we give our kids these
incredibly powerful communicative tools when we have no notion about where
they have been, what they have seen and what they have encountered?
It used to be that if someone had a boyfriend or girlfriend, they might
call the house and dad would intercept the call. You kind of knew what kind
of communication was going on, unless the kid snuck out somewhere. Now,
there is a direct pipeline to our young people, and it bypasses parents
completely. What I would strongly suggest for parents is that they consider
using what I would call almost digital training wheels. There are various
tools that you can put on computers and cellphones. The idea is not to snoop
on your kids, but to provide them with tools so that when negative things
happen — and unfortunately they will — you can use that as a discussion
point. The key thing is to establish relationships of trust.
There are four parts to what I would like to share with you today. One is
the need for parents to become much more engaged. The second hat that I will
wear right now is that of an educator. I have taught for over 30 years. I
grew up in Ottawa. I lived and taught in Nunavut, in the communities of
Arviat and Kangiqliniq, or Rankin Inlet. I am now teaching in Western
Canada. I have taught many different grades and subjects. I have had the
opportunity to be engaged with kids for a long, long time. I went to Queen's
University years ago and did teacher training, the concurrent teacher
education program. It was unique at the time because, instead of one year,
it gave me four years to think about whether I wanted to be a teacher and to
practice in the classroom. In the entire four years of being a teacher, I
did not receive one single research-based course, let alone a class, about
the issue of bullying, let alone cyber-bullying.
Now this is scary. Here we have the number one non-academic issue that
most teachers face. Yet most teachers, when they go to university, do not
receive training to deal with it. It is like having nurses and doctors who
do not know how to help people with the flu. This is the state of teacher
education in Canada. I recently had the honour of being a keynote speaker at
a university with a very good reputation for teacher training. I asked the
student teachers, "You are getting ready to graduate this year. How many of
you have had any training or knowledge about how to deal with these
issues?" Not one single student teacher getting ready to graduate now in
2011-12 — very bright young people who, I am sure, will be wonderful
teachers — has had training to deal with this issue. This has to change.
The other part of this, the third part of the four pillars, if you will,
is corporate responsibility. Right now, the mobile and Internet service
providers in Canada are making a healthy living. I do not begrudge them
that. However, there was a national advertisement done by one of the mobile
providers. In that advertisement, there were some kids in a van. They were
going up into the mountains to go skiing and snowboarding. The girl in the
commercial, aired across Canada, had her new camera phone pointed at the
driver who was nice enough to take her up to the mountains and took a
picture at a very unflattering angle. He asked what she would do with it.
She said she would post it online for everyone to comment on. The boy said,
"Are you laughing at me?" The girl in the national ad said, with disdain, "No, we are laughing with you." This ad that went on national television
for quite some time was using cyber-bullying as a model for what was
People who are going to be marketing cellphones to young people — and
that is where the market is — need to be much more aware and conscious of
the kinds of marketing they are doing. They should certainly not be
modelling cyber-bullying in their marketing.
If you are a parent or grandparent and your daughter or granddaughter has
come home and left her phone sitting on the kitchen table — You are not
prying, but, let us face it, cellphones light up, vibrate and practically
dance across the table — and you see a threatening message, try going on one
of the major provider's websites and finding out what their acceptable use
policy is. Try finding a link to click or someone to contact to get help
with issues like cyber-bullying. Try to find a phone number or email link,
which is almost impossible, and then hope that maybe, just maybe, someone
might, in a few days, get back to you.
In those few days, you have a child or grandchild who, at night, is
perhaps cutting herself and hiding it with long clothing. Perhaps at night,
he or she is thinking of committing suicide or actually, as we have all seen
too much in the Ottawa area and other parts of Canada, acting on this
thought. Twenty-four hours is 24 hours too long to wait for a response, to
get a different cellphone number without cost to your family, to know that
you can have that and to find out, maybe, where this came from. I think that
the corporate responsibility is really clear. It may not require additional
legislation, but it is this: We should ask the providers to create clearly
written, easily accessible acceptable use policies. Then you need a very
easy-to-access place for the average parent, who may not be very
technologically adept, to report things like cyber-bullying. We need to ask
the providers to actually respond in a timely manner. Again, 24 hours may be
24 hours too long for a young person who may be suicidal. They need to have
actual staff to help support parents to deal with this issue and related
issues that we will not have time to get into today.
We also need to be able to provide services for families, so that if the
child or the family needs to get a new cellphone account, they can have it
at no additional expense to them. By having a new account, those who could
get at them cannot do it anymore.
This is the one part that adults do not understand. Back in the day, if
you were bullied physically, verbally, psychologically or socially, at least
when you went home you could listen to music, take your dog for a walk and
have some kind of peace or sanctuary. The thing that adults do not
understand is that now, with cyber-bullying, those who want to hurt you can
get access wherever you have access to the Internet. There is no hiding from
this at home, and that is the part adults have a really hard time with. They
will say glib things to kids like, "Well, just turn it off." You cannot
because kids all know, in the back of their minds, who is seeing that photo,
that post on Facebook, or whatever it may be. They all know that their
community and their peers are seeing it, and not just their peers but
perhaps a much wider community as well.
There was a boy named Ghislain, in Quebec, who created a little video of
himself pretending he was fighting Darth Vader in Star Wars. He made
it privately, in his high school, and left the video camera behind. Other
students found it and posted it online. Before long, he became known as the
Star Wars kid. What started as a personal, private, fanciful, fun little
moment, became public humiliation very quickly.
It is a different time that our kids are dealing with right now.
I have mentioned briefly the role of parents and the kind of things they
need. I have only barely touched on the kinds of things that educators need
to be aware of. I am not a lawyer and do not pretend to be, nor am I in the
area of criminology, but there are aspects of the Canadian Criminal Code
like 264.1, extortion by threats, 265, assault and 266, criminal harassment
and impersonation. Now cyber-bullies are being charged in relation to some
of these things. Again, the legal area is not my area of expertise. However,
I think governments should hold the corporate community responsible and say,
"You are making billions of dollars from marketing to kids, sometimes
marketing very inappropriately." Again, I do not begrudge companies making
money, but if you market heavily to young people, since that is where the
money is really at, you need to have easily-accessed and easily-understood
acceptable use policies. You also need to have ways to report things like
cyber-bullying that are easy for the average consumer to use and staff to
help people to either find out who sent these messages and reprimand them or
take away their accounts, or to set up new accounts for the victims.
Corporations owe it to the consumer and the Canadian public to actually
uphold their own policies, which most of them already have in place. Simply
do that, and support families when they are trying to deal with things like
I would like to see the government formally recognize something that has
been going on for 10 years at the grassroots level across the country. I had
the idea for starting Canada's National Bullying Awareness Week 10 years
ago. The idea was not meant to be a top down thing from Ottawa; it was a
grassroots initiative. I am proud to tell you the Government of Ontario,
Government of Alberta, City of Calgary, Ottawa mayor Mr. Watson, and the
City of Ottawa have recognized it. Communities all across the country have
recognized and participated in it. I would be honoured and thrilled if the
Government of Canada would say that they would.
The Chair: Mr. Belsey, you have been over 20 minutes.
Mr. Belsey: I will wrap up. It is hard to condense 10 years into
What governments need to do — in addition to holding the feet to the fire
of the ISPs and recognizing Bullying Awareness Week — is look at their own
behaviour. As a teacher who tries to help kids understand what is happening
in our own government, we sometimes wonder why young people are not voting
anymore and why they seem to be disconnected with the democratic process.
Here is a story: I was in my grade 5 social studies class talking about
government — at that time there was a leadership race going on — and a
student asked to share something. We turned on the projector and he
proceeded to show an animation. It was of a well-known, respected leader
from one of the parties whose image and likeness was put on another party's
website. In this animation, a bird came along and defecated on this leader.
The student asked, "Why are the parties doing this in Ottawa?" For the
first time in 30 years of teaching I did not know what to tell them. Young
people do not remember what we tell them. They remember what we do, and our
behaviours. This is very important.
I will finish with a few final thoughts. Sometimes people like to make
the issue of cyber-bullying about Facebook or the cellphone. I would like to
use the analogy of a hammer. It can be used to harm someone and also used to
build beautiful edifices like the one we are in now. It is not about whether
you have a Black & Decker or a Stanley hammer. It is about people.
Cyber-bullying is not so much about technology, although that plays an
important role. More importantly, it is about people, relationships and
choices. The bad news is also the good news, which is that bullying and
cyber-bullying is about people, relationships, power and control, and abuse
of those in relationships. The good news is that parents, educators, the
corporate sector, government, and those of us who coach hockey teams or
volunteer in our communities can all play a role in changing these
behaviours, modelling positive behaviours and have kids understand a basic
tenet: Everyone has the right to be respected and has the responsibility to
respect others, in person and online.
The Chair: Thank you Mr. Belsey. Before I move for senators to ask
questions, may I have a motion to table Mr. Belsey's presentation as an
Senator Ataullahjan: So moved.
The Chair: Moved by Senator Ataullahjan.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for being here. My question is how
do we involve parents in monitoring their children to see what they are
doing online? I do not think things will change until the parents of kids
who do the bullying are aware of what their children are doing.
Mr. Belsey: That is right. The concept I use is that of digital
training wheels. Kids are asking for Internet access, computers and
cellphones at a younger age. As parents, we have an obligation. As opposed
to simply handing them the keys to the car and saying, "Here, take a drive
on the highway," we need to have digital training wheels. I will mention
one tool, but there are many. One called PureSight. You can put that tool on
your child's cellphone and computer. I do not recommend that parents do it
surreptitiously without the knowledge of their child. It is to use it from a
position where you can have discussions. The goal in the relationship with
your kids is to establish a relationship of trust. Kids will be kids, and
unfortunately they may say, do or see things online that we would prefer
they not see. By having these tools on the computer or phone, it will alert
parents to inappropriate actions and behaviours online.
When these things happen, I would use them as conversation starters. I
will give you an example. My son was in grade 7, he was on his computer and
he said, "Dad, I do not think this is right." I asked what was wrong and
he said, "I did not want to show you but you need to come and look at this
website." It was MartinLutherKing.org. We quickly realized the website was
full of racist slurs. I showed him how to do a search to find out who
actually owns the website. It turned out it was owned by a neo-Nazi group in
the United States. We contacted the real place called the King Center and
informed them about what we found. I do not remember what mark my son
received on his project, but I do remember that weeks later we received a
letter in the mail saying:
Thank you for what you have done. Thank you for what you have found.
Our lawyers are endeavoring to get Dr. King's name back.
It was signed, the late Coretta Scott King.
I was acting as a parent, not a teacher. Specifically, you can use tools
like the one I mentioned. However, when negative things happen — instead of
shutting down computers, banning or blocking — we need to have conversations
with kids about how we handle this. Kids will experience this, whether it is
in our home or in a friend's home, and we can use what might be a negative
situation and turn it into a teachable moment. Every parent can potentially
Senator Ataullahjan: We have discussed the role as a parent. As a
parent, I see it. Nowadays when you are sitting with children, I quite often
see each child will have a computer in their lap. They are all sitting
together, yet there is no conversation because they talking to other friends
who are online. I know the responsibility is on parents. We can have laws,
surveys and have studies, but nothing will change until parents get
On the other hand, should some of the responsibility rest on the teachers
and schools? Should there be a class where we teach the children about the
consequences of what they are putting out on social media? Is there a
monitoring software that parent can use?
Mr. Belsey: To answer the last question first I did mention
PureSight software. Parents created it and I have no vested interest in it,
but it is one of a number different tools.
With regard to the kinds of things that need to be done, at the beginning
of the school year every Canadian parent usually has a stack of papers to
sign, including field trip or other forms. One of the forms that Canadian
parents usually receive at the beginning of the year is called an Internet
acceptable use form. Before parents sign off on those forms there needs to
be sessions. I give one called Cyberparenting 101. There is information from
the Media Awareness Network, for example, which has wonderful information in
French and English. They have resources and licences schools can use before
parents sign off on those permissions. That is something specific that can
You mentioned the role of schools. I would be pleased to reiterate — and
I am not proud of it — when they go to study to be teachers, the vast
majority do not receive a single research-based course about bullying for
teachers and parents.
This summer, I reached out and sent emails to most of the faculties of
education across Canada. I did not receive one single reply. There are two
schools that expressed interest: the University of Ontario Institute of
Technology and Mount Royal University in Calgary. Those are two of a handful
out of many.
This is bullying, and now cyber-bullying is the number one non-academic
issue that classroom teachers have to deal with, yet most of us do not get
trained to deal with it. It is like having nurses and doctors who do not
know how to help Canadians with the flu, and this has to change. For those
teachers who have taken my course and professors who have seen it, they have
I had a conversation earlier today and mentioned that I had the honour of
going to Colombia, South America last year, where I presented at a
university in Medellin. Their faculty of psychology asked me to show them
the course I created for teachers. They saw it and fell in love with it, and
now they are committing their resources to translating my course into
Spanish. Soon it will be available to Latino and Spanish educators around
the world. In my own country, one of my dreams is to have that same course
It is an ironic thing. I do not know if it is a Canadian thing or not —
whether you have to go abroad to get recognized; I am not sure what that is
all about —- but there is a resource right there that can speak directly to
your question about what schools need to do. Plainly and simply, educators
need to become better educated, especially with regard to the issues of
bullying and cyber-bullying.
The reality is that many teachers, myself included, have made lots of
mistakes. For example, you do not put the bully and the victim in the same
room together. That just makes it worse. You do not deal with bullying like
I have done all these things. If there is a guilty line, I will stand at
the front of it. I have made all these mistakes in my 30-year career. I do
not want new teachers to make the same mistakes. They have kids depending on
People like me go into schools and ask the kids to please tell us if they
know this is happening; do not keep it to themselves. However, we also know
that if a child does come forward and talks to the teacher, if the teacher
is not trained, they actually can make it worse.
The good news is that we can change this. This is not rocket science;
this is about behaviour and learning. That is something we can quickly
Senator Zimmer: Mr. Belsey, please pardon the sunglasses. I
learned on Saturday that at my age, I should not clean out the eavestrough.
I slipped on the way down and tried to use my head as a basketball, so I got
a pretty good shiner.
This is a very interesting topic; I have talked to my staff about this a
lot. I agree the providers have a tremendous responsibility here; they have
lost the concept of what the original cellphone was for, which was
communication. They have misused it now with Facebook and Twitter and
everything like that. That is another story, but I am glad you brought it
How long has cyber-bullying been taking place and do you feel programs
such as Instant Messenger, Facebook, online gaming, et cetera are a big
reason for the problem?
Mr. Belsey: I first defined the term cyber-bullying about a decade
ago. No doubt, it may have been around in other forms because the Internet
has been around in a different form than today in terms of the World Wide
Web. It has been around going back to the days of arpen.net in the United
States, when researchers were sharing information. No doubt, there was
probably some angry professor who got mad at some angry military contractor
of the day and perhaps maybe way back then, there was a form of
cyber-bullying. However, in terms of that word being in the common
vernacular, my direct contact with it has been about a decade now.
One of the analogies I used earlier was that of the hammer. I will give
you an example of how I allow the use of cellphones in my own school
division, which is the Rockyview School Division just outside of Calgary. It
is a public school in a rural area, and it is very progressive. They have a
vision around 21st century learning. The school board has agreed
— not with me particularly, although my attitude has been that these are
computers. I have my students coming in and they give me feedback on my
lessons using their cellphones. My students are able to tweet some deep felt
feelings they had, using their cellphones to tweet about why they thought
Remembrance Day was so important. You can use these hand-held computers the
same way as other computers of various sizes and shapes, but the trick is
what you do with kids and how you have them engaged.
As I mentioned, in my classroom, my students use all computers —
including hand-held ones — in a variety of ways. My students just started a
blog, and the websites are DearCanada.ca or ShareCanada.ca, where my
students are writing love letters about Canada. Some of my students do their
assignments on their cellphone. My daughter Julia, who just returned from
Acadia University in her first year, said she recently wrote a paper on her
BlackBerry, submitted it to her professor and thankfully got a 92 mark on
These are hand-held computers and they can do everything that we want
them to do, providing that we have engaging things for them to do. In my
classroom also, my students use educational computer games. There is one
done by UNICEF called Food Force, created by the United Nations' world food
You can talk to kids about issues of hunger, food distribution, poverty
and those sorts of things, but have a group of kids in middle school play a
simulation game to decide where food goes and how it gets distributed, using
a real life simulation based on real science and real data — that is
powerful learning; so I think we have to be careful. Clearly, some video
games are silly and some have downright negative behaviours demonstrated in
them, but not only do I use games in my teaching, I teach young people how
to create their own games — including how to make applications for a phone.
When you have that powerful creative tool, you can show kids the positive
I will give you another example that speaks back to the other question
about education and what schools can do. There is a term I coined a number
of years ago, which I call "Netizenship"; some people have called it "Digital Citizenship." I began to think about what it means to be a
citizen as a young person today. In the context of the online world and 21st
century learning, I thought why do we do projects about Africa? Why not do
collaborative projects with kids from Africa?
My students created a website, netsfornet.net. We connected with a group
of high school students in Botswana, where a teacher friend of mine and I
created this collaborative project. The students used Twitter, Skype,
discussion forums, blogging and video so their high school students could
teach my 10-year-old students in rural Alberta about the seriousness of
My students learn from them live from Africa in our classroom. We learn
that every day seven jumbo jets worth of children die of malaria, and we
learn this from kids who live that reality. My students created this project
and raised over $700 to get 70 bed nets. We wired the money to Botswana,
where their students got the bet nets, distributed them and took photos of
the whole process. This is what I call Netizenship, using the power of the
Internet to engage kids in positive ways.
I think it is important and germane to discussions about cyber-bullying,
because we need to model for our kids — not have a culture of banning and
blocking. We need to have a culture of planning and teaching and learning,
where we say how do we use Skype? Guess what, we connect with kids from
Africa. Why do projects about Africa when we can do it with them?
This is a wonderful different time that our kids live in. Speaking back
to the question that was asked earlier — What are the things that educators
and schools can do? — we can model positive, inspiring, engaging uses of
technology. Then when kids are in a situation where something negative might
present itself, they will have these wonderful positive models. That is
something we can do and I try to do in my own classroom.
Senator Zimmer: I guess all things can be used or misused. On one
of the bullying statistic charts, you show that boys have always surpassed
girls when it comes to bullying others. Why do you figure that is?
Mr. Belsey: You have to be careful. When it comes to
cyber-bullying, for example, we know that generally the more social forms of
bullying tend to be done by girls more than boys. Generally speaking, boys
tend to be more on the physical end of things than the social end of things.
Because cyber-bullying involves social media communication technologies,
that means girls are often engaged in those things more perhaps than boys
are. Girls tend to be bullied over something to do with their physical
attributes and for boys who are bullied online, it tends to be more about
their sexuality. In middle school and high school, you will hear the words,
"he is so gay." Those words are used as a threat or a weapon. Kids will
create online polling booths where kids can vote anonymously on who is the
ugliest girl in the school or the gayest boy in the school. These things can
happen. Two things facilitate this behavior: One is anonymity. Kids think
they are anonymous when they are online. However, when I present Virtual
World — Real Consequences to kids, I show them that it is a bit of a false
perception in reality.
The second reason that cyber-bullying happens is what psychologists call
"disinhibition." You do not see the face of the person that you are
hurting. Kids who are normally very nice, generally speaking, may do or say
things online that they would never do in real life. Online, you do not see
the face of the person you are hurting. That distance gives people a false
sense of having licence to say or do online whatever they want. They do not
understand that although these are virtual worlds, there are real life
consequences for them and for others. Also, as I said earlier about the
teenage brain, kids live in the moment and do not make connections between
cause and effect. Not to let them off the hook because they need to be
responsible for their behavior, but we also have to understand what is going
on when teens are online.
Senator Hubley: Probably the folks around this table are working
hard to understand what you have been telling us. The whole online system
that children and young people have in place is part of our culture. Would
Mr. Belsey: It is like ether. I call today's generation the
"always on generation."
Senator Hubley: With every new issue that comes into our culture,
we see some things that are very, very frightening. Generally, do you see a
time when our young people will have the answers and know that there is a
way to avoid the pitfalls and deal with the fact that they are being
bullied, if that is how they feel? Where do we stand in that whole
Mr. Belsey: There is some good news: Some research coming out
shows that bullying generally, although the media may give us a different
impression, in various forms is slowly decreasing. When it comes to
cyber-bullying, one thing that worries me as a dad and as a teacher of kids
whom I care for very deeply, they cannot solve these sorts of issues on
their own. As I said before, if there is a guilty line, I will stand at the
front of it because I have made every mistake there is to make with respect
ot dealing with this. I have made all of them. Teacher training has to
improve a lot as soon as possible because when kids do reach out and they
are struggling to find solutions and help, they need someone who is properly
trained. My students have a teacher who understands technology and the
issue. I am in a fairly good place to try to help them. My fellow colleagues
could do it too if they had some support. It worries me that when kids
experience these things, they often feel very much alone, even if they are
loved at home. There was the case of the young boy in Ottawa who came out as
gay. I remember listening to his father on television, when I was in
Alberta, say, "I love my son. I accepted him for who he was. He came out as
a young gay man. I accepted him for who he was. I loved him for who he was.
I did everything I could." He then paused and said that it still was not
good enough. We have a long way to go.
As I tried to say earlier, despite the troubling aspect of
cyber-bullying, I have an optimistic mind. Think back about where smoking
was a number of years ago and recycling, as another example. Those are
behaviours. Slowly but surely those behaviours have changed for the better
in Canada. The thing is, we cannot hang our kids out to dry. It takes a
whole village — that is really important: Parents need support,
understanding and commitment; educators need to be educated; the corporate
sector needs to be stronger and do much better in certain areas; and
government could ensure that some of these things happen. I am a middle
school teacher and other teachers say I am crazy to teach middle school,
which is supposedly the hardest. I do not know if that is true because I
love it. The kids today are smart and able; they do so many great things.
The work of two young girls in middle school not long ago was university
quality research. They told me they had to do their research on breast
cancer at home because when they search breast cancer on the school
computers, the computer filter system shuts them down. We need to move from
a culture of banning and blocking. Teachers need support so they know how to
do the kind of things that need to be done. Most kids are pretty great most
of the time. That is the bigger picture.
We also know of some research coming out around Internet safety. It shows
that teenagers are becoming more aware and many more aware than adults. Is
there a long way to go? Yes. We see stories in the news of political leaders
and some of the decisions they have made around technology. I think a lot of
our kids in many ways are models. Even though this is a hugely serious
topic, I am not a doom and gloom person.
I have been teaching for 30 plus years. My reality is that tomorrow I
will be back at my middle school with those teenagers; and I have teenagers
of my own at home. That is my reality. For the most part, most kids are
pretty great most of the time, but they need help and support when they turn
to adults. Perhaps the role of this committee is to determine what the
Canadian community can do to ensure that those supports are in place in
education, in families and in the corporate sector, so that when kids reach
out, they will know that we will listen.
If people try to contact their provider, they may or may not get help.
They might contact the police, who do the best they can but they are often
completely overwhelmed with work. People may Google bullying or
cyber-bullying and find my websites. Last year, over 3.5 million people
visited bullying.org and shared their stories. We moderate all the stories
and all the replies. They often contact me. I have a family and I have my
classes to teach, but somehow I have become a de facto, what is the right
word, ombudsman. Parents are completely frustrated. They want to help and
support their kids, but they have no one to turn to. We can do better than
Those are the things we need to put in place. Generally speaking, I
believe in our kids. That is why I became a teacher. As a teacher, I have
one primary overarching responsibility: to create the optimal environment
for our kids to reach their potential as learners. The bottom line is: Kids
who are scared to go to school because of bullying in the traditional sense
or cyber-bullying can never ever achieve that potential.
Senator Nancy Ruth: I am always interested in the gender-based
analysis that you will have done with all the information you have given us.
Could you tell us about the differences between boys and girls, the
perpetrators, who gets it, what the impact is, who wants help, and who does
not want help? I am also curious to know why teenagers are interested in
hurting other people.
Mr. Belsey: I am a dad, a middle school teacher and I do
Bullying.org when I can, when I am finished doing my lessons. To answer your
point, I am not a researcher or an academic. I am aware of the fact that
generally speaking, girls tend to be involved in cyber-bullying more than
boys; not to say that boys are not.
Girls generally tend to be involved in more social forms of bullying. To
answer your question about why people do this, at its core bullying is a
relationship issue. It is about power and control. People hurt others when
they are looking to establish that power and control over others. Whether
they choose to do it verbally, psychologically, socially or by
cyber-bullying, it is a relationship issue whether it is online or not, and
is about power and control. Why do people do it? If you boil it all down,
there are a lot of other extraneous reasons that might come into it, but it
is about power and control.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Girls do social forms of bullying. What do
male children do?
Mr. Belsey: They do it all, too. We cannot make it black and
white. Boys do social forms of bullying, too.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Is there an analysis you have that shows peer
indicators, or is it a general flow through where there is not much
distinction between boys' and girls' behaviour?
Mr. Belsey: I did not bring that research with me today, but I can
email it to you. I am aware of those pieces, I just cannot bring it off the
top of my head, nor is it specifically in my presentation. We need to think
about bullying and cyber-bullying almost like a play on a stage. In the
context, for example, of me being a middle school teacher and being out in
the recess yard, you will see kids going from positions of being victimized,
to being the aggressors to being the bystanders all within minutes of the
same recess period. The same is true online. Kids can go from a situation of
being the aggressors to being victimized to what I call bystanders. I try to
encourage my own kids and students to be digital upstanders. When they see
negative things happening, know to stand up and support those. I think
sometimes we have to be careful about labelling kids as bullies. Bullying is
the behaviour. We do not want to have a self-fulfilling prophesy and say,
"That child is a bully." That child may be showing bullying behaviours but
we have to be careful. That same child — within the context of even one
recess period let alone a whole school day — may flow from being victimized,
to being an aggressor, to being a bystander all within the context of a very
short time. We need to see it in terms of that fluid way. Although it makes
it easier for us when we pigeonhole people or define things, bullying is
complex because it is about relationships.
For example, that is why when you hear terms like "zero tolerance
policies," that is a red flag for me. The term "zero tolerance" actually
came from the anti-drug wars in the United States. That is where the term
originated. When you hear zero tolerance it often means you bully and you
are out. If you live up in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut or Cochrane, Alberta, where
is out? Every Canadian who follows hockey knows it is the instigator who
gets the penalty. It is always the one who retaliates. That really does not
do a lot. I think whether it is bullying or cyber-bullying, we need
consequences. They are not necessarily gender-based, but they are formative
consequences that teach.
Senator Andreychuk: I have been trying to follow all that you have
said and you have covered a lot of ground. You are basically saying we have
a new tool. Children are still the same, they have the same relationship
problems, they have the same maturation problems, they have the same
problems at school, in the community, and in their home. We do not all come
from the same homes, same communities or same schools, so that is part of
You say we need more education, more adaptability on relationships and
parents understanding what this new tool of cyberspace is about. However,
you are not saying — if I understand you — that children are any different
today than they were 10 or 20 years ago. There is still the mix of growing
with difficulties as they are.
The reason I say this is we made a lot of changes in our laws. When
adults changed the world they lived in — when we went to joint custody, the
Divorce Act, we went to freedoms we did not have for ourselves before — the
reverberating effect was on children. They had to adjust to new worlds we
were creating for ourselves. I do not see that phenomenon now. I think
adults and children are adjusting to the new technologies. They are being
used for positives and negatives and we are concentrating here on another
tool for negative behaviour, if I understand you. Am I correct?
Mr. Belsey: Yes. In some ways it is true that bullying is
essentially still bullying, but I will give you an example of how
cyber-bullying is. The speed with which cyber-bullying can happen is in the
click of a mouse. The audience for bullying back in the day might have been
in the schoolyard, but the audience for cyber-bullying can be as large as
the Internet itself.
Cyber-socializing begins very early. You often have older siblings
showing kids how to get a Facebook account. Wait a minute, you have to be
13. I will show you how. You sometimes have the blind leading the blind.
When they sign up for these services, kids will go online and give out all
kinds of personal information that no one has any business of knowing.
Parents do not have any knowledge that this is going on. Some people would
argue that some things are changing. I have read some research recently that
looks at what is called multitasking; kids doing a plethora of things at one
time. The research is showing that although kids may be multitasking, it is
not good in terms of focusing on learning.
In terms of what is different, my wife actually went to a brain research
conference in San Francisco last year. There is some preliminary research
coming out saying the way the actual synapses of the brain are firing is
different given the way kids are now interacting with screens. There is some
research showing that elementary kids coming into kindergarten are not
picking up on facial and visual cues as adroitly as previous generations
did. We were looking at making eye contact, shaking hands and things that
adult generations have got used to doing, but now kids are coming in and
having difficulty taking their cues from facial recognition.
Some people would argue there is a sense of entitlement now among some
younger people that maybe was not there in the past.
In some ways things are the same, but in other ways they are quite
different. The technologies kids are using now to communicate, recreate,
learn with and interact with are changing things. Someone around the table
mentioned not too long ago they saw kids sitting around on laptops and
cellphones, not looking at each other, yet communicating with each other in
the same physical space. These things are changing.
Senator Andreychuk: Are you saying it is one more tool — and a
very complex tool — that using cyberspace leads to behaviours we had before?
Therefore, we should be looking at the outcomes of that technology on
phenomena children experience?
Mr. Belsey: I want to clarify, are you saying I am saying that
cyber-bullying is one new tool?
Senator Andreychuk: No, that cyberspace is one new tool. I have
listened to you and you have talked about relationship problems, the role of
the school, family and community. These are all things that every child
experiences growing up, for better or for worse. I can go back 40 years; you
can go 30. I had the school, the parents and the community when I was trying
to help a child grow and mature responsibly. We now have what would appear
to be one more factor, and that is all of the equipment that they have to
instantaneously get at things.
A kid used to run away across the block, then across the city, then
across the continent. They can go anywhere now, but their maturation is the
same. Are you telling me that cyberspace and the tools that they have now —
and you were just starting to touch on it — have an effect on their brains,
on their capabilities? That would be the only new thing. Otherwise, it is
just a new tool that parents should inform themselves about and that we
should adapt all of our curricula and all of our messaging to, et cetera.
That is what we tend to do every decade when we get new things. Are you
saying there is something essentially different that changes a child?
Mr. Belsey: Yes. All this is very preliminary research that I have
been made aware of. Again, I am not an academic, so I do not spend all of my
time doing this. However, I am aware of these pieces when they come out. I
am aware of things like multitasking and brain development. There are some
early indications that the way the brain works is beginning to change as a
result of using these various technologies.
The change is so massive. You talked about a different way. It is not
even a different way of learning, it is a different way of thinking now. As
I said earlier, when my students come into my classroom, we literally have
the world at our fingertips. We bring up Google Earth, and, with a click, we
can be connected, through video conferencing, with kids half a world away.
There is a global mindset that kids have now that really underlies what I
call the "always on" generation. There is some preliminary research coming
out in different areas to say that things are changing the way people think
and the way they learn.
Am I an expert in those fields? No. However, I do see that there needs to
be a different way of teaching, to use these tools to optimize the learning
experience. In my own school division and in others, we call it 21st century
learning. It is a different time. I have students coming into my classroom
now who are 10 years old, who are becoming experts on certain things. That
is remarkable. It used to be that you had to go and get a Masters or Ph.D.,
and then you published a paper and people would kneel at your feet and learn
from on high. Now, you have young people doing incredible work and, then
through the power of the Internet, sharing that work. That, in itself, is a
real change. You do not necessarily know that the person you are learning
from may be younger than you, and yet they have world-class expertise in
certain areas. That is really quite remarkable.
Senator Andreychuk: That may say more about you and me than the
children. I think it is important that, when statements are made on this
research, we actually get the research because that is the new key. I would
like to hear it from someone who can give me the research on whether we are
really talking about playing catch-up and identifying how we deal with
cyberspace and therefore bullying, or whether there is something more to the
phenomenon of brain change, adaptive behaviour, et cetera. That would be a
whole new field. Quite frankly, I have heard some of it, and some I am wary
of. If you have your sources, can the clerk have them?
Mr. Belsey: I would be glad to follow up on that when I get back
to my classroom. I would also mention that, in terms of what is different,
one of the things that we are looking at now is this concept of
disinhibition, where people do not see the faces of those they hear online.
This is quite new. You see kids who normally would not act in these ways
face-to-face, acting out in these ways online. There is a school here in
Ontario, a well known private school, where I was invited to spend some
time. One of the female teachers there was being cyber-bullied. They found
out it was one of the quietest, brightest students in the school, who was a
wonderful academic student and hardly said boo in class. He was writing the
most hurtful, hateful things.
It is a different time, and there are different things happening. Kids
are in situations and have access to resources and tools now that they have
never had in previous history. This is different too.
Senator Andreychuk: It may be the multitude, and it may be the
medium. However, children did leave anonymous messages in the past, and they
were very docile kids. Kids did knock on your door and run away. It is the
same concept of why they were doing it as what you are saying now. They now
have a very, very dynamic tool that may frighten us as much as it frightens
them, but it may be a positive in the long run.
Mr. Belsey: As I hope I tried to impart a moment ago, I am a very
positive person. The things I do in my classroom are, I hope, exciting and
engaging. I try to model, as often as I can, the positive uses of these
incredible technologies that we now have at our fingertips.
Senator Zimmer: Senator, you have hit the jugular. You must be
listening to John Tesh on the American radio station 98.5.
Senator Andreychuk: I have to say I never have.
Senator Zimmer: He has talked about that. Medical research has
shown that young people retain only 20 per cent of what they read nowadays
through the computer and through these tools. That is because they only
skim. It causes ADD, attention deficit disorder. The way to train your brain
the best is by reading books. They never read the full message. Actually,
what is happening is that they are learning bad things by not being
attentive and staying focused. If anything, it is causing them to be
unfocused. That is medical research that is being done right now, and he has
been reporting that for months. I wanted to add that.
Senator Baker: Excellent point, Senator Zimmer. I think the reason
why Senator Andreychuk raised the subject the way she did is that she is a
former judge and has been listening to the witness very carefully.
I would like to congratulate the witness on the tremendous work that he
has been doing over the years. I think that the term cyber-bullying, as one
word, was used by you before it was used by anyone else. In recent times, we
have seen it used in case law, as you probably are aware, in civil cases and
in criminal cases dealing with schoolchildren. In civil cases, charges of
defamation have been followed, lawsuits by the parents against other
children who are partaking in cyber-bullying. In criminal cases, it is
either defined as an assault or it is used as a defence for a person who
assaults someone else because they have been cyber-bullied and they know who
I wonder, with your vast knowledge of this subject, would you recommend
to this committee considering any changes in law, either of a criminal or
civil nature, to facilitate the objective of what you have been involved
with over the years and to bring justice to certain children?
Mr. Belsey: Thank you for your question. I guess I will respond by
saying that I am certainly comfortable in dealing with my own purview, which
is that of education. I always feel that the best way to address such issues
is prevention through education and awareness. I may have mentioned earlier
that I think that, in a way, cyber-bullying is almost like a crime of
passion in that it is almost of the moment. Teenagers are literally thinking
and living in that moment, and they will say and do things online in the
heat of that moment. I kind of doubt whether legislation will actually
change that mindset. Do I have the legal expertise or background to properly
comment on that? I do not think I do, but I will say, as an educator who
works with teenagers every day and who has teenagers of my own, that it is
something I am very, very comfortable with. I would say that what we need to
be doing is helping kids do things like, for example, develop empathy. I
mentioned earlier I have that project where my students connect with the
group of kids from Africa.
We have another project called seeingpeace.net, where my students have
connected with a group of Palestinian children in Jerusalem, as well as
Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. We asked the question, how do you see
peace? We had conversations around that.
What I try to do on multiple levels and in multiple different ways is to
have our kids emulate and have us model as a class ways to use these
technologies in positive ways that show the high road constantly. I do not
know if I really feel qualified to properly comment upon whether or not
legislation will effectively address this. Given what I know about teenagers
and technology, and the way that they use it, I really do not know if that
is the best way to go.
For example, in schools, we often have these filters and things to block
everything. When do you that, the signal that sends to kids is that we do
not trust you. I think sometimes it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. You get
what you expect.
In the cases where I have done interesting collaborative projects using
technology with my students, they have constantly surprised me. They have
gone far beyond what I thought they would do. I guess it is because I am an
educator that I think this is all about prevention through education and
It would probably be hard to find one school across Canada that does not
have a policy that addresses bullying in some form, including probably
cyber-bullying now too. However, the problem with having policies,
legislation and these sorts of things is they tend to be reactive and
punitive. The world's best researchers who have been kind enough to mentor
me say yes, there need to be consequences, but they need to be formative
consequences and those are consequences that teach.
From my position as an educator, if I had to put most of my efforts into
a certain area, that is where I would put them. I do not know, thinking
about the reality of teenagers' mindset and where they are living, whether
having legislation will be a deterrent to a 15-year-old girl who has been
jilted by her former boyfriend — whether she will think and pause before she
sends that text message that there is this legislation in Ottawa.
That is the reality of where most teenagers live with this issue and I do
not know truly if that will do enough. I think the education and awareness
piece will do more.
I will give you one specific example. My students blog on a regular
basis, and the other day one of my male students was going to post his blog.
The kids submit their blog to me for review and I help them edit for their
grammar and spelling, but also a little bit for content. When I saw this
post in the queue, I called him over and asked him to have a look at his
post for a minute.
I said before I push it live to the world, can you just look at that and
tell me what you think? What do you think your classmates would think if I
pushed that live right now — or your parents when they look at your blog
He was absolutely horrified by what he had written. He had only just
written it 30 minutes prior and he had almost forgotten what he had said. I
called him on it and he said, Mr. Belsey, I am so sorry, I was not thinking.
I said okay, what should we do about that? Could you please delete it?
I think the solutions around this are with education and awareness to
prevention. Having a one-off, having a presenter or having some course that
is out of the norm will help somewhat, but what I try to do with my own
students in terms of teaching with technology, blogging and using Twitter in
my middle school classroom, is looking at it in the context of what we do
and having conversations with the kids about it; that is far more effective
down the road than the reactive and punitive things.
I have to respond as an educator, as a middle school classroom teacher,
that if I have to put my passion and energy and time and talent into
something, it is around that. For things like zero tolerance policies and
legislation, I really question their effect. I think it is that day-to-day
slogging, developing relationships, learning how to develop healthy
relationships in person and online, that is where the real work gets done
and where behaviours can change. I have to say that, wearing my hat in the
world that I live in as a middle schoolteacher.
Senator Baker: It was my understanding that your teachers
association had recommended that a change be made to the Criminal Code.
Mr. Belsey: Yes. I know that the Canadian Teachers' Federation had
asked me for information about cyber- bullying and I told them what I
thought was appropriate. Again, I cannot begin to speak on behalf of the
Canadian Teachers' Federation or the Alberta Teachers' Association, although
I am proud of being a member of both.
I will say as an educator that if I am going to put my heart and soul and
blood, sweat and tears into something, it is on the education piece. I think
that helping kids learn how to develop, maintain, support and encourage
empathy, developing healthy relationships in person and online, at least
with kids on a day-to-day basis in my home with my own teenagers and in my
classroom with my middle school kids, that is where the rubber hits the
We live in a world where we want a pill to get thin and where we want to
have quick solutions for things. However, I really think that bullying
and/or cyber-bullying is about relationships and relationships are messy and
difficult. We need more sophisticated, thoughtful responses to them than
simply things like simplistic notions of zero tolerance or just pass this
law and that will fix it.
I am not a lawyer and I do not pretend to be at all; I am not in any way
legally trained, and I do not pretend to be. I reflect back on what I see
with kids on a day-to-day basis in my classroom and in my family — the kind
of changes I have seen and the kind of lessons we have learned as a family
or as a class or in a relationship between student and teacher.
I am really lucky; I have a strong knowledge of technology, and a fairly
decent knowledge of kids and learning. Again, if there is a mistake to make
in dealing with these issues, if there is a guilty line, I will stand at the
front of it; I have made every mistake there is to deal with this. I have
been learning all along the way.
I just wish my fellow teachers would not have to make all the mistakes I
have made throughout my career to get to the point where I am, which is
slowly understanding how to do this better. That education piece is the one
that if other teachers had some of that, I would feel very gratified.
Senator Baker: I was reading a case recently, a judgment in your
province in which a school child had talked to her parents, and she
disclosed an incredible case of cyber-bullying by persons unknown. The
parents took the matter to court; of course, first they sought disclosure of
the persons who were sending this information — the IP addresses and so on.
The young lady, the school student, wished to be anonymous in the
lawsuit. The court turned her down and awarded damages to the Internet
providers. That is the problem with civil law; you start an action and you
run the risk that if you lose, you could have the costs awarded against you.
Do you have any thoughts along those lines? When the bullying becomes so
oppressive and has such a devastating effect on a student, do you have any
thoughts on whether or not we should be changing the law to make such
information — like who is doing the bullying — available to persons who wish
to sue for defamation on behalf of their children?
Mr. Belsey: I will reiterate something I mentioned earlier about
the pillars; I talked about parents, teachers, the corporate community and
government. My feeling is that the corporate sector has been dropping the
ball in certain areas.
They need to have clearly written, acceptable use policies or terms of
service policies that are easily found on their websites.
They need to have easily accessible ways to report abuses of their
policies like cyber-bullying that are easy for the average mum and dad to
find. They need to have full-time staff. This is what they do. If they
actually invested in this, those folks would be busy supporting families
whose parents are scared and upset because their kids are become cyber-
bullied. The parents try and find somewhere to report on the provider's
website and cannot find the acceptable use policy. If they do find something
they cannot understand it because it is written for lawyers and bean
Parents try and find a place to report cyber-bullying. However, it is
almost impossible to find because the providers would prefer to show you how
to make a hot new viral video and upload it to YouTube. Of course, that uses
bandwidth and the more bandwidth you use up on the network the more they can
charge on your cellphone account. Their priority is getting you to do all
that stuff, but nowhere is the kind of information like we have been
discussing here. Parents need to be aware of what their kids are doing
online. Parents need to know what discussion to have with their kids so they
can make good decisions when they experience these negative things, which
In relation to the providers themselves, I am really hesitant. I do not
want to shy away from your question, but I am what I am. I am a middle
school teacher who cares about the kids and I happen to have a little
knowledge about some of these other things. I do not have legal expertise. I
will say that at the end of my workday I will easily have 100 emails from
Canadian parents, or parents from other countries, saying their kid is being
cyber-bullied. They try contacting the police, who say they need evidence
and they need to do certain things.
The parents feel quite overwhelmed and do not know where to begin. They
try contacting the mobile provider but the mobile provider does not respond.
It takes them half an hour just to find someone to contact and they do not
get back to them quickly. The service providers do not seem to care.
Basically, the parents are in limbo and they have a kid who may be suicidal.
In the meantime, the providers are happily charging the customer's credit
card each month for however many hundreds of dollars. Sometimes they are
marketing to their kids, as I showed earlier, in very inappropriate ways.
Parents have a role, we as teachers have a huge role, and government has
its role too, I think, in many ways. Perhaps there should be a policy that
if you use our tools and our network you must play nice in our digital
sandbox or else there will be some kind of ramification. Right now, if you
are a Canadian mum or dad and your kid is going through this, and is feeling
upset and scared and not wanting to go to school, you are in limbo.
I hate to say this, but I do not advertise this and I do not want it
even, but people will Google "cyber-bullying" and they will come to
cyber-bullying.org, or one of the websites, and they will end up emailing
us. There are so many of these people who try and get support from what you
would think would be appropriate channels. The providers need to uphold and
enforce their own policies.
There need to be policies written to assist Canadian families who
rightfully and dutifully pay their cellphone bills each month. When they are
in trouble with issues like cyber-bullying — and there are other issues too
that we have not even begun to discuss — and they need help, someone should
actually respond. At the very least, there should be help to get a new
account, in order to put an end to these threatening text messages, without
being charged for that service. Perhaps, as mentioned before, the IP address
could be disclosed so that the origin of the threatening message can be
determined. The account holder can then be told to cease and desist or their
account will be closed. Those sorts of things can help assist Canadian
parents who are, for the most part, really feeling powerless.
I do not feel qualified to comment on the legislative part but I can tell
you, from answering emails every night from parents, that part can change.
To me it makes sense. If you are going to have a policy, why not simply
uphold your own policy and then provide supports that seem like common
sense? Surely that is in the neighbourhood of good customer service. Is that
not what you would hope they would do?
The Chair: While I was researching this issue, I came across a
number of websites that facilitate cyber-bullying. Is it feasible that these
websites can be shut down? If not, what options are there? What should our
committee be recommending? I especially refer to those websites that are
Mr. Belsey: That is difficult. The way I look at it, I have been
building websites since 1992, when I built the school website, way back in
the day — and I have built a lot since then — I look at it like being a
landlord. What people do not always know about the bullying.org website is
that for over 10 years we have moderated every single posting of every
story, poem, drawing, video and all the replies. We moderate all those
before they go live online. This is incredibly time intensive. We take that
trust, when kids or parents or whoever posts on the site, seriously in order
to let them share their story in confidence. However, the reality is people
hang out shingles all the time and put up tenement buildings, if you will.
They do not really care that there is someone selling pot in room 201 or
have a house of ill repute in 302, or whatever. They basically do not care
what happens in their building. I look at it as being someone who builds
websites and takes that trust seriously. I try to be conscious of what is
happening within that building, if you will, in this case in cyberspace.
It is easy to build a website now. When I first started building them you
had to know HTML and all this technical stuff. Now you can build a website
in a couple of clicks.
The Chair: How easy can you shut one down?
Mr. Belsey: It is very difficult. I spent six months working with
a principal in the United States getting a website shut down. It took six
months of my life. I was marking report cards, I was doing planning, I had
my family and I did not have time for this, but we did it. The reality was
that that same website came up with a slightly different name about 10 days
later, with a lot of the similar content and not really caring at all about
what was on the site. Sometimes the more controversial the better because
then they can get advertising revenue. As long as they can have that
advertising revenue coming in they are happy. Because it is hosted on a
third party server that may or may not be in Canada, the laws may or may not
apply. The server may literally be anywhere in the world. It does not matter
in terms of creating the website. That can happen on any server anywhere,
which has implications.
Again, I am hesitant to get into legal territory but it has implications.
What may or may not apply with the Canadian Internet service provider may
not apply at all if the host is in Grenada, or anywhere, and literally that
is what is possible. You can set up a server anywhere in the world and it is
quite questionable as to whether or not Canadian law applies.
The bottom line here is there is no accountability. Coming back full
circle to kids, that is another issue around cyber-bullying. When people
think they are anonymous online or that there is no sense of accountability,
they are free to do whatever with impunity, whether it is posting messages
or hosting a website.
Senator Ataullahjan: Do you see a role for the parent councils?
Most schools have parent councils. I know, from being on a parent council
for almost 16 years, we used to have workshops where we would invite parents
and encourage the kids to get their parents to come out. Maybe this is an
issue that parent councils could look at and take an active part in just
helping along. Many parents will come out to events that are organized by
the parent council.
Mr. Belsey: Parent councils are actually critical, especially when
it comes to issues like cyber-bullying. As we discussed earlier, most
cyber-bullying happens away from school on home computers and on cellphones.
It is absolutely critical that parents be engaged in this in a big way.
There is the Media Awareness Network based here in Ottawa. The website is
media-awareness.ca. They have wonderful online resources, passport to the
Internet programs and things they have for students, teachers and parents. I
have a little website calling bullyingcourse.com, where there is a course
for parents. There are a lot of other resources out there. I have a
presentation I give called Cyber Parenting 101, which I do a lot. That is
really important because parents do not really have the knowledge. They love
their kids and they want them to be safe and happy and be okay, but they do
not always have knowledge about what is really going on. Parents have a
frame of reference to their own growing up that often does not apply to the
online world in which our kids live today. Parents ask what the frame of
reference is here; they did not grow up with all this. Parents do not
understand that when you are online, to reply in an expedient way is very
important in youth culture. If someone texts you and you do not text back
quickly, that is a social faux pas.
How do parents relate to that? As Marc Prensky said, we are the digital
immigrants. We have come to this and adapted to this technology. The kids,
as Marc Prensky writes — he is an American researcher who writes about
technology, gaming and kids — are the digital natives. I am a dad with
teenagers myself, a son and daughter, and I am a tech teacher but still I am
struggling at times to understand and relate to this.
I agree with you completely; the more supports we can put in place for
parents, the better. There is the Media Awareness Network and other great
Canadian resources. I see two wonderful mentors here, Dr. Pepler and Dr.
Craig, who have mentored me through the years. There is PREVNet, a national
organization that coordinates people. They have resources as well.
Having parents engaged is so important. When issues like cyber-bullying
come up, the school can only do so much. With parent involvement, the
chances of finding resolution are so much better.
The Chair: We appreciate the time you have taken to be here and
sharing with us your experience on cyber-bullying.
I would like to welcome Wendy Craig, from Queen's University. We are very
pleased to have her here. She is with the Promoting Relationships and
Eliminating Violence Network, PREVNet, a coalition of Canadians concerned
about bullying. The primary goal of PREVNet is to translate and exchange
knowledge about bullying, to enhance awareness, to provide assessment and
intervention tools and to promote policy related to the problems of
bullying. The mission of PREVNet is to develop a national strategy to reduce
problems of bullying and victimization throughout Canada. We are happy you
have joined us today, Ms. Craig.
We also have with us Debra Pepler, a full professor of psychology at York
University and a senior executive member of the LaMarsh Centre for Research
on Violence and Conflict Resolution. She conducts research on children at
risk. Her major research program examines the antisocial behaviour of
children and adults, particularly in the school and peer context.
I understand you both have introductory comments, and we will have a lot
Wendy Craig, Scientific Co-Director, Promoting Relationships &
Eliminating Violence Network, Queen's University: Thank you for the
invitation. We are delighted to be here. We are coming as scientific
co-directors of PREVNet, Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence
Network. We are bringing a research-based perspective.
Eleven years ago Dr. Pepler and I submitted a grant to three different
agencies that got rejected three times. I do not normally like to share that
information about myself or our history, except it was on electronic
bullying. The comments were, "What is the big deal and how is it different
from the phone? We have been studying that for 30 years." There is a
significant difference and it provides a unique context for understanding
the issue. We would like to take the next few minutes to share a bit about
how electronic bullying is the same or different from face-to-face bullying
and figuring out what to do about it moving forward.
The first thing is to define what it is. I know we had a previous speaker
here, but we think about using the word "electronic bullying" because it
is bigger than cyberspace and has to do with the ways we communicate
information electronically. In that definition there are key features. The
first is that someone is identified and there is intent to harm another
individual. One of the outcomes associated with electronic bullying is harm.
The other is it is either repeated or has a high likelihood or fear of
being repeated. The child who is being victimized by it is harmed and they
live in fear that it will happen again. Electronically would mean passing on
a link or sharing a video, so it is constantly repeated every time the link
In the case of electronic bullying, rather than face-to-face — or what I
call "traditional bullying" — it involves the use of electronic devices,
whether cellphones or computers in different forms. For example, there are
Internet polls such as "How many of you think that you do not like what
Wendy wore today?" You sign up for that electronic poll. It takes place
I work on the Health Behaviour in School-Aged ChildrenSurvey, which is a
national survey of children in Canada funded by the Public Health Agency of
Canada. On this graph I provided the most recent data and trend data. On the
bottom you will see grades. We have children participating in grades 6, 7,
8, 9, and 10. As you go up it has the percentages of children reporting
being victimized by electronic bullying.
The red lines are girls and the blue lines are boys. The dotted lines are
the 2010 data and the solid lines are the 2006 data. What is the message to
take away from the graph? First, girls are much more likely to be victimized
and perpetrate electronic bullying than boys. It is more common among girls.
What you notice from the graph is there is an increasing trend for boys.
If you look at the solid blue line compared to the dotted blue line, you
see boys with increasing grades are increasing their prevalence of being
victimized by electronic bullying. You also see the girls' dotted line is
relatively flat. The prevalence of being bullied electronically does not
really change from grade 6 through grade 10. If you contrast it to the boys'
line, it increases for boys with age or grade. The big message from this is
boys are catching up to girls in terms of being victimized electronically.
The trend of it overall for girls has not. It is flattening out across age;
it used to decrease across age. For boys, there is increase in being
victimized electronically. It is an issue we need to worry about in Canada.
The other big point that we would like to make today is that youth behave
consistently across context. Only 1 per cent of students who are involved in
bullying specialize in electronic bullying. You are doing it face-to-face
and electronically. This is not a unique group of students that engage in
this type of bullying. Only 1 per cent of them are only doing electronically
bullying. The other percentages are doing both. This is the same group of
highly at risk children and youth we need to be concerned about. The same is
true for being victimized. The children are being victimized online and also
face-to-face. Only 1 per cent of them are only electronically victimized.
There is a huge overlap between real world or face-to-face involvement and
We have also asked children how harmful this behaviour is. One of things
we frequently get is they do not report to adults because they say, "We
were just having fun," or, "We did not mean for it to hurt." We see the
different ways that children bully one another. We have physical, verbal,
social — which is the face-to-face — and electronic. The red bars are girls
and the blue are boys.
The message I want you to take from this graph is that girls view all
forms except for physical as more harmful and more painful than boys.
The other message is there is no difference in the level of harm for boys
or girls in terms of how they view verbal, social or electronic. All are
viewed as harmful, but similarly viewed as harmful. The least harmful of
ways you can bully is actually physical. It talks about the impact of this
being viewed as extremely harmful. The highest score on the scale is five
and even more harmful than the physical.
Debra Pepler, Scientific Co-Director, Promoting Relationships &
Eliminating Violence Network, York University: I will talk briefly about
why we should worry about electronic bullying. One of the ways of looking at
this is to understand there are similarities between electronic and
traditional forms of bullying, but also differences. When we analyze it
statistically, we can see above the effects that children experience when
they are victimized in traditional ways. What are the effects of being
victimized electronically? One year later — when we look at youth who are
victimized over a year's period — electronic bullying was positively related
to increased physical, mental and social health problems, as well as rating
of low quality of life.
Over and above these traditional forms of bullying, one year later there
was electronic bullying. The youth who did the bullying were higher on
cigarette, alcohol and substance use. This is what we find this in our
research with children who bully; they tend to go on a pathway that leads
them into a lot of troubled areas.
One of the other messages we would like you to understand — because it
relates to how we need to think about approaching this — is this is a
behaviour that peers know a great deal about and adults know very little
about. That is true in traditional forms of bullying, but especially once we
move into the electronic domain. Peers, as in the traditional forms of
bullying, are there. They know it. A high proportion of peers report that
they have witnessed electronic bullying. Just as in traditional forms of
bullying, they can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. If
we are asking them to be part of the solution, they require a great deal of
support in order to step in and help their friends with bullying. When you
are being bullied electronically or when you are witnessing this, you are
removed from the face-to-face cues that you get in normal human interaction,
such as the visible sadness and the distress. Many things happen during
face-to-face interactions that can signal something is really wrong and
someone is really distressed.
Adults lack the understanding of the technology and the connectedness to
these virtual contexts that youth are in. They are hugely embedded in social
networks, and we adults are not part of that. We have seen instances where
youth in Canada have been very distressed by electronic bullying. They have
blogged about it and sent out many messages but the adults in their lives
were not aware. Just as with traditional forms of bullying, youth are
reticent to tell the adults in their lives that this is going on. They
expect ramifications. They do not expect that we will be effective. There
are many barriers to just what we think is part of the solution, which is
The challenge that we face in addressing cyber-bullying is that this form
of socialization through social networking, texting, and other forms of
virtual interaction, as we might think of it, is here to stay. It is the
world of our youth. They are connected and they are successful at it. It
provides a lot of rewards for them, but it has some challenges. We have
limited understanding of the influence of this form of electronic
engagement, be it positive or negative, on young people's social and
emotional development, so we need to do much more research on this new and
emerging phenomenon. Students' knowledge of technology is almost always
greater than that of the adults in their world, whether teachers or parents.
There is a gap. In most areas where we are socializing children and youth,
we adults are the experts and we have the capacity to socialize them.
However, the table has turned. Technology is constantly evolving, and this
is where we feel that research has such an important role in helping us to
We wanted to talk about this from a rights perspective. Much of the work
we have done within PREVNet with our partners in particular has come from a
rights perspective, in particular the UN Convention on the Rights of the
Child. Children and youth have the right to be safe and free from violence.
Those adults responsible for them, not just in the home and in the school
but in all places where children and youth are, have a responsibility to
promote their healthy development and to keep them safe. There is no
question that electronic bullying is a violation of children's rights; and
from that perspective, we need to find effective practices and policies.
There needs to be systemic change.
This is not a problem that resides just within one child or within a
child who is bullying and victimized, not within that relationship; it is a
broader change that we need to look at and be cognizant of. In many ways, it
is similar to other processes of development that we study so we can bring
that to bear in terms of what harms there might be, what the outcomes are
and what the strategies are to identify and prevent it with peers and
adults. It is really about relationships that occur electronically as
opposed to face-to-face. For the youth in our world, they are every bit as
salient and important as the relationships that they have face-to-face.
We want to thank you for the opportunity to represent our work at PREVNet
with the 58 researchers and 51 national organizations that have come
together to try to promote healthy relationships and eliminate violence.
The Chair: May I have a motion to table the presentation as an
Senator Nancy Ruth: So moved.
The Chair: I will start off with a question on Article 19 of the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires state
parties to take all appropriative legislative, administrative, social and
educational measures to protect children from all forms of physical and
mental violence, including bullying between two or more children and cyber-
bullying. In your view, is Canada meeting its obligations under this
Ms. Craig: I will start by saying that Canada can do more to meet
and serve the best needs of the child. There are a couple of things that we
can do more effectively. I do not think we fully understand, monitor and
survey the problem fully enough.
The Chair: What should we be doing in the area of surveillance?
Ms. Craig: We need to engage in regular surveillance and
assessment to know the extent of the problem. It is twofold: one is more
research so that the monitoring and surveillance can let us know the extent
and severity and potentially the location. For example, are certain areas
more at risk or less at risk, such as urban areas versus rural areas, where
we need to put more things in place? Surveillance can enhance our research
agenda to make us more knowledgeable about the harms, the outcomes, the
correlates of the problem and the early risks and protective factors so we
can be evidence-based in our prevention programming.
Ms. Pepler: This comes at the provincial level under education. I
sat on the Safe Schools Action Team in Ontario so I am familiar with that
legislation. They have done a good job of identifying cyber-bullying and
saying that it does not really matter if it happens at home. Principals have
said that if it happened at home, not on school property, they were not
responsible. Wherever it happens, if it impacts learning, it is a critical
Even if we have that policy in education, there is a big gap between what
the policy says and what is happening on the ground. We need to help the
adults who are responsible for ensuring children's safety to follow the
effective strategies so that we do protect them. It probably involves more
than the parents and teachers. It probably involves some corporations
involved and other broader contexts.
The Chair: Do any provinces have better practices than other
provinces? Which are the model provinces at following Article 19?
Ms. Craig: The bottom line is that most provincial educational
policies address it, but this policy practice gap is significant. For
example, Nova Scotia is specifically rebuilding their policy. The policy
practice gap is significant. Fundamentally, that is the issue. Part of that
issue is that we need a unified definition of the problem and a unified way
of monitoring the problem. As well, all adults who are responsible for
socializing children need to be part of solution. It is not just an
educational problem. It comes back to being a federal initiative because it
is a public health initiative in terms of health promotion.
The Chair: You mentioned a unified definition and unified
monitoring. Do you see that as the role of the federal government?
Ms. Pepler: If it is a health promotion issue, the federal
government can step in and identify that this puts both the youth who bully
as well as the youth who are victimized at risk for a range of health and
Another problem is that we often do not identify these youth as at risk,
particularly the youth who are bullying others. However, we know a lot about
children who bully others, and if they do so at a high and consistent rate,
they likely come from families where the relationships with their parents
are very strained or the relationships between the parents are strained.
These youth have also learned to be aggressive and violent in the various
contexts in which they live. All youth need to be protected.
Ms. Craig: I think the other lever at the federal level deals with
crime prevention. We know, for example, that those children who bully at a
high rate consistently in elementary school are at high risk for engaging in
a moderate or high level of delinquency by the time they are in high school.
If we are to prevent crime, we can start by thinking about bullying as the
red flag in elementary school.
The Chair: Are there any countries that meet the obligations under
article 19 that we could learn from?
Ms. Pepler: I think the Scandinavian countries, such as Finland,
are well ahead of us on all aspects of identifying strategies to be sure
that everyone understands them. When you look at international surveys, the
rates of bullying and cyber-bullying that youth from these countries report
is much lower than Canada's. We stand in the middle third of the rankings
for developed countries that do the surveys.
There is much to be done. I think it is a bit of a challenge for Canada
because in Scandinavian countries, education is a federal responsibility and
the countries themselves are much smaller. Finland, for example, is about
the same size as the Greater Toronto Area. When you think about trying to
change a country that is the size of Toronto, it is a little easier. They do
so through the education system, and it is completely embedded into the
culture, much more than here.
I was at a conference years ago when the Prime Minister of Norway spoke
about how important this was, not just for education but for workplace as
well, recognizing the cost to the country of this type of bullying
Senator Nancy Ruth: I am thrilled you are both here. You have both
made my day.
I have a whole lot of questions. They are not in any logical or
sequential order, so get out your pen and paper and you can figure out how
you will answer them.
Let me start with your "Why Worry" slide. Tell me a little bit more
about your research and that bullying results in decreased mental health,
low quality of life, social problems and so on. Can you tell me about the
research and how you reached those conclusions?
Thank you for doing something on the gender differences in terms of the
victims. Can you say something about gender differences in terms of
perpetrators? Are they all the same?
I wanted to just mention the federal Human Rights Act. Section 13 deals
with telephonic communication and hate. There is a private member's bill in
Parliament right now, which I believe the government will support and which
will remove this section from the federal Human Rights Act. Only 2 per cent
of the cases at the Human Rights Commission are around section 13 of the
act, but in terms of bullying, when I read some of the stuff, I thought,
"Wow, this could be a mistake." It leaves one with the Criminal Code, and
there are three groups that are not included in the hate sections of the
Criminal Code, which are women, the disabled and discrimination on the basis
of age. Do you have any reflection on that? I hope that my good lawyer
friend over there will do something about this issue in his party.
Dr. Pepler, I wonder what your relationship is with SickKids Hospital and
how this issue relates to hospitals across the country.
You mentioned that there were 51 organizations involved in your net. Can
you tell us what kinds of organizations and their geographic places?
My last question, which is very dear to my heart, is around the issue of
harm. How do you see this electronic bullying connected to pornography?
Ms. Pepler: Should we alternate?
Ms. Craig: I will start and you finish.
I will provide a little bit of background. There were a couple of studies
that we formed for the basis of the "Why Worry" slide. One study was where
we followed a group of students over a period of a year. In the fall of the
first year, we asked them several questions about their health and
well-being, as well as involvement in different forms of bullying.
One of the things we found and that Dr. Pepler was talking about was that
children who reported involvement in bullying over and above the effects of
face-to-face bullying, of which there are many negative effects, is that
there were unique effects of electronic bullying. In other words, being
victimized electronically made things worse than if you were just bullied in
the face-to-face sense or the more traditional ways. It was a longitudinal
study following children over a period of a year.
Then there was another study. Do you want to talk about it?
Ms. Pepler: We again followed youth over a period of year.
Statistically, to give you a sense of how we approached it, let us assess
the effect of traditional forms of bullying and see whether there is any —
it is called variance — prediction left over when you then add
cyber-bullying, and it still does. Even above the harm that is caused by
traditional forms of bullying, there is an additional form of harm when this
electronic bullying occurs. It may have something to do with the
invasiveness of it because children are not safe at home and they are not
safe at night when they are asleep. Lots of children go to bed with their
cellphones, which buzz in the middle of the night and they get texts that
haunt them. There are some differences with this form of bullying that have
Senator Nancy Ruth: From your research, you said there was
increased threat to physical health, mental health and quality of life. Is
there a different degree of this between physical bullying or face-to-face
Ms. Craig: That is right. Cyber-bullying makes it worse. It makes
all of the outcomes worse if one is also cyber- bullied. We measured verbal
bullying, physical bullying, social bullying and face-to-face bullying and
we predicted those negative life outcomes. Then we added cyber-bullying, and
it predicted even more significant kinds of problems.
Senator Nancy Ruth: How much lower is the quality of life from
cyber-bullying as opposed to the other forms of bullying? Is there a
measurement for that?
Ms. Craig: I could not tell you what exactly that is, but I can
look it up and get back to you.
Senator Nancy Ruth: There is a measurement?
Ms. Craig: Yes, it has been assessed. We asked the children about
their quality of life through different kinds of questions, and kids who had
been cyber-bullied reported that they had less of a quality of life. They
were less interested in living. They did not feel appreciated or liked by
others. They felt there was no point. They were behavioural marker type
Senator Nancy Ruth: Was there any measurement of what state of
self-worth they had prior to the study?
Ms. Craig: Yes. We would have known what it was at time one, and
then at time two it became worse.
Ms. Pepler: I will pick up the next question, if I can, about
girls. This is an area that really interests me.
Aggressive girls are different from aggressive boys in the sense that it
is atypical for girls to be aggressive. If they are aggressive, they are a
bit outside the norm already.
There is not one type of child who bullies. This is another important
aspect. There are some children who bully who are generally quite aggressive
and generally out of control, and there is another group of children, both
boys and girls, who are very smart and very socially aware.
They figure out who the vulnerable people are, how they can push the
button just to cause so much distress in that other person or control them,
and these are two different types of children who bully.
Girls who bully do so at a high and consistent rate over elementary and
high school. We know about that because Ms. Craig and I conducted a study,
and we picked up children in grades 5, 6 and 7, and followed them for seven
years. When we finished, they were in grade 11, 12, and it was the last year
of grade 13 in Ontario. The girls who bully at a high and even a moderate
rate are at a high risk of being physically aggressive with their
boyfriends. Girls care a lot about relationships, and if they are not
skilled in engaging in relationships, then this form of aggression and
learning how to distress someone or get their attention or control them
seeps over to these other relationships that become important in
adolescence. In many ways, the girls are just as at risk or maybe more at
risk than the boys who engage in this type of behaviour.
Ms. Craig: If we look at electronic bullying, it is unusual, if
you compare it to traditional bullying. The girls are much more likely to do
the bullying than boys in an electronic context. In the face-to-face
context, you find that when you ask students, it is more boys who report
higher levels of engaging in bullying than girls. However, we also put
remote microphones on children, we film them when they are in the playground
and when we observe the children, boys and girls bully at equal rates. When
you ask children or young students, girls say they bully much less than
boys. However, when you ask them about electronic bullying only, the girls
report in engaging in more of it than boys.
Senator Nancy Ruth: When you asked the girls and they reported,
did it fit with what you learned from your hidden microphones? Was the data
Ms. Craig: They were different studies. It was not the same
Ms. Pepler: However, it was consistent in that the girls were
doing more than they would report doing in a traditional way.
Ms. Craig: The other piece that is important from a prevention or
promotion perspective is that girls do not define what they do as bullying
as readily as boys. With respect to some of the forms of bullying online,
such as spreading a rumour about somebody or sharing a link, the equivalent
of that would be spreading a rumour or talking behind someone's back. Girls
define that as extremely harmful behaviour, but not bullying behaviour,
versus when we talk about bullying that is one form or one way that children
bully other children. Therefore, there is an educational piece for all youth
about what bullying is, and that is why that consistent definition is
important. What is bullying and how do we do it is essential.
Ms. Pepler: The next question was about telephone and hate crime.
I think our world has changed. Most young people today do not have a land
line, which I am sure is what they were talking about in terms of a
telephone. Much of the electronic bullying we see comes through from text
messaging, which youth do all of the time. I think 50 times a day is the
average number of texts that youth send. I do think that that aspect of the
human rights legislation needs to be examined from a current perspective
because the world has changed vastly since the Charter was brought in.
In terms of women, disability and age, I think those are very important
issues. We found in our own research a high level of sexual harassment from
boys to girls but also girls were doing it, and there was a lot of
homophobic harassment. I think that the gender issue is important. In the
work we do, and the work that we have done with the safe schools action
team, we looked at bullying around disabilities, and there is a great deal
of work to be done to help ensure that those children are safe from all
forms of violence, because they are much more vulnerable.
Ms. Craig: Around that issue, a couple of the questions we asked
were about the content of bullying, if it is around disability, race or
sexual harassment. Although they are less prevalent than a threat, those are
prevalent forms of bullying that do happen. It is important to acknowledge
The other point that I wanted to make about the Human Rights Act and the
hate issue is that in bullying, we are dealing with children and young
developing beings. We have to be educative in the consequences we put into
place. As Ms. Pepler often discusses, when children are learning how to do
math, there is a way we teach them to do math step- by-step. If they are
having challenges in math, we do not expel them from school. We put the
supports in place to help those children learn the math skills they need in
order to be successful in math. Why? It is because they are developing young
beings who need to understand that process.
We would argue the same about children and youth when it comes to
engaging in bullying, that they are young children who are learning how to
engage in relationships. As an adult, I will tell you relationships are
complicated. It is not easy. When you are having trouble engaging in
relationships — fundamentally, bullying is a relationship problem, where it
is the most disrespectful kind of relationship that I can imagine — in order
to address that, we have to help build the capacity for these individuals,
children and youth to have relationships. When we are dealing with children
and youth, we always think that we have to provide them with the skills,
capacities and competencies to engage in successful respecting relationships
and not disrespectful relationships like bullying.
Ms. Pepler: I thought I would move on to the question about the
Hospital for Sick Children. The Hospital for Sick Children's vision is a
healthier child, a better world. It fits in with our notion that this
problem can be approached from a health promotion perspective. Within
PREVNet, one of our partners is the Public Health Agency of Canada, and we
have done some work with them around reviewing violence prevention programs
and developing some messaging around children's rights and safety and
bullying. The hospitals see their job on a global scale as being an
important educator around issues of children's health.
The hospital is, again, one of PREVNet's partners, and we have worked
with them around a site they have called "AboutKidsHealth". It is an
information site for parents, teachers and others who work with children,
and we have put some work on bullying up. We have been recently funded again
— we are really excited — by the Network of Centres of Excellence, which is
a federal government research funding mechanism. We have been funded to do
additional work with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the hospital and
other organizations within PREVNet.
Ms. Craig: Our original vision of PREVNet comes from the
realization that many people were working on the issue of bullying. Everyone
seemed to be working in silos and repeating the wheel across the country.
Our original vision was to bring together national organizations that worked
with children and youth across the country to bring consistent education and
training about bullying, assessment about bullying, prevention and
intervention and policy. The philosophy was that every adult who works with
children and youth across the country needs to know what bullying is and
what are the evidence-based practices, strategies and programs that
effectively deal with it.
We brought together national organizations that work with children and
youth, where they live, learn, work and play. The idea when we started was
that by working with national organizations, they would have the channels of
dissemination down to every local community across the country so that we
could get the information out in that way.
We were concerned about reaching all the adults we could reach, all the
adults who socialize children and youth across the country, with
We know from research that many different programs though well intended
may not be evaluated, and some even have a negative effect. About one in
seven bullying-prevention programs make the problem worse. It was absolutely
critical for us to ensure people were engage in evidence-based practice, and
that was one of ways to achieve it, through creating this national
organization that brought together researchers and national organizations.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Could you give some examples of who they are?
Ms. Pepler: We have the Respect Group that does respect in sport.
We have the Red Cross that does some of the best violence-prevention work
across Canada, particularly in Aboriginal communities. They have a community
mobilization program called Walking the Prevention Circle. We have the
Canada Safety Council, because they are interested in safety in Canada, and
we recently did a project with them on cyber-bullying. We have parks and
recreation, we have the Teachers' Federation and the Canadian Association of
Principals. We also have the Family Channel, so we reach six million homes
during Bullying Awareness Week with messaging. We try and reach every
Senator Nancy Ruth: Are there any school boards?
Ms. Pepler: We have the Canadian School Boards Association. We
decided to start. When we got this grant it said in small print that now
that you have this grant you have to bring about social and cultural change
in Canada. It was a little overwhelming, to tell you the truth. We are
really trying hard.
We thought, how do you change things for every child and youth in Canada?
We had a strong strategy of starting at the national level and then having
the organizations work the knowledge and training down to the people.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Do you have groups like Girl Guides and Boy
Ms. Pepler: Yes.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Do you have various religious groups
Ms. Pepler: Not yet. We have talked about that and sought counsel
on that. It has never been clear to us, although we should continue to
pursue it, what door to go through. Probably we need to go through 10
different doors. We have two full-time staff, so that is a little
challenging for us. We reach out to those groups though, and they have
connected with us several times.
Ms. Craig: In our first years as PREVNet we worked with each of
our organizations. We did 82 different projects with our organizations in
five years. Girl Guides, for example, were concerned about aggression among
girls, so we worked with them to develop an electronic training for the
22,000 Girl Guide leaders across the country. We brought researchers
together with the Girl Guides and we co-created. That is how we think about
The researchers did this great academic presentation on the
evidence-based practice to work with girls, and the Girl Guides asked what
are you saying? They translated it into accessible language and speak
recognized by their organization. The researchers would check that and make
sure it was accurate. Then we went out, and they had been training their
leaders and we were evaluating that training to ensure that knowledge is
getting out there, what knowledge and training is being taken up.
Eventually the next phase, which has not yet happened, will be to see if,
by changing the Girl Guide leaders' knowledge, we are improving the girls'
behaviours and reducing aggression in Girl Guide troops. Every organization
we worked with had some kind of project like that in the last five years.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Could I get an answer to the question on
Ms. Pepler: I will be brief. We understand bullying as the use of
power and aggression to control or distress someone. As youth move into
adolescence and become sexual beings, sexuality is very important. There are
many instances of girls and/or boys being coerced into taking pictures or
having pictures taken of them and being put up on the Internet. This is
certainly a concern.
When you step back and think about bullying as power and aggression more
generically, the luring of children, certainly the people who are criminally
involved in pornography and engaging children and youth are using power in a
horribly aggressive way to cause harm. This is something we need to think
about from the criminal perspective, but also from this development
perspective. What is and is not appropriate for you to disclose and for
others to ask you?
There is a lot of work around helping children and youth know where those
limits are and to be able to stand up and be confident in saying "no."
Ms. Craig: Dr. Faye Mishna from the U of T has done some work on
this and looked at the ways children report being victimized electronically.
One of the ways is showing sexual pictures, et cetera, that have been
spread. She can tell you the prevalence; I do not remember it at the moment.
The interesting piece of that research is that kids report that with most
forms of electronic victimization it is by a friend or someone they know. It
is least likely to be by a stranger. That might be a developmental function,
but kids do not really know that that is what they are reporting they know.
Senator Andreychuk: I unfortunately have a conflict, so I will ask
a couple of questions.
You said there is additional harm from cyber-bullying. Can you explain
what you mean? Is it quantitative or is there a different quality in the
Ms. Pepler: I do not think we are at the point where we can really
talk about the quality, but I can speculate about it. Let me back up and
explain that there is statistically significant additional harm.
When we look at things statistically, we look at the association between
two factors. Having been victimized traditionally relates to this much harm
and, over and above that, having been victimized electronically adds
significantly to that harm.
What we have to think about and what we have to do much more research on
is the ways in which these electronic forms of victimization invade
children's lives. It is clear that when you get a text it is unacceptable to
turn your phone off. Instantly the other person will know the texting is not
there, and that provides more fuel for bullying.
If pictures go around, it is so difficult for young people to know that.
It is so much less tangible. I talked to a young man who had been
cyber-bullied and a website had been built for him. Virtually everybody in
the school had gone on and put all sorts of horrible things up on this site.
He said when he walked down the hall he had no idea, when people were
smiling at him, whether they were smiling because they appreciated him and
wanted to be friendly, or whether they were smiling and laughing about what
they had seen on this website. It was so disturbing for him. I do think we
need more research to understand what the quality of this experience is.
Senator Andreychuk: I have been trying to draw an equation with
sexual abuse, which is harmful to any child, but when it happens within the
home and, with all the family relationships that are with you for life, it
was qualitative harm that we were zeroing in on. That is why I wanted to
know what you meant by "additional harm."
Ms. Craig: That is a very important point. It is the pervasiveness
of it and inability to escape, the electronic aspect of it. One thing we
have not talked about is the positives associated with the use of electronic
devices in adolescent socialization, which we have also researched. It is
one of those things that have the ability to have positive outcomes but, if
used inappropriately, has hugely negative outcomes.
In my example, there was a young woman that I work with in a similar
situation. A website was put up about her. The website came down within 24
hours but had over 1,000 hits. This young woman, who was from a small town,
developed agoraphobia. She was afraid to leave her home because she did not
know who had seen it.
Therefore there are two things: There is the pervasiveness of it, the
ability for information to be translated quickly that makes it impactful,
and the third piece is the broad band of people that it can reach quickly.
Those are the three things that elevate the level of associated harm.
Senator Hubley: You told us that there is a lot of work to be done
on the gap between policy and what is really happening on the ground. You
told us about the students that you were following through the grades. At
any point did they run into a situation where there was a policy in place,
and if so, were you able to identify it?
There is a big gap for most of us between what we think of as bullying
and cyber-bullying. Does good policy exist that the many groups that are
addressing bullying could be using?
Senator Nancy Ruth: To add to that, if one in seven is actually
adding to bullying, is there anything your group can do about that?
Senator Hubley: I want to ask about SNAP Girls Connection as well.
Ms. Craig: I will start with the gap between policy and practice,
which is really important, and it is related to your comment.
It is excellent that the Public Health Agency of Canada is filling that
gap with the Canadian Best Practices Portal. We have been involved in
developing the violence prevention program. It is a website where you can
find programs that are evidence based. SNAP is a good example of an
evidence-based program. WITS is a strong evidence-based bullying prevention
The first thing is getting the evidence into the hands of the people who
need it. That is part of the problem, because we are in a world of
competition. A principal once told me that they get over 100 advertisements
for bullying prevention programs every year. How does he choose?
How do we make those choices available and educate the consumers? The
consumers are, in some sense, the principals, but also any adult who works
with children and youth. It is the public health nurses in schools and in
communities. It is the parks and recreation leader, the Girl Guide leader,
the Scouts leader, the Boys and Girls Clubs, after schools clubs, and the
Big Brothers and Big Sisters. All of these have to have the tools to choose
a program that is evidenced based and recognize how to make that decision.
We need more tools that enable or facilitate or provide the capacity for
these socializing adults to engage in evidence-based practice and use that
kind of information.
That is one step that we can take, and there is a role for that.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Please give an example of more tools and
Ms. Craig: The research tells us that educators pick bullying
prevention practices by asking a colleague down the hall. Lots of those
choices are made just because they know the program. They are not programs
that have been proven to work. We want to make sure that we put into schools
and communities programs that work. We need a repository of programs that
are evidence based and we need to market that repository to all adults who
work with children and youth. We need to devise a tool to help them pick the
right program for a particular age group in a school in a rural community,
Ms. Pepler: To flip the coin, Ms. Craig and I did a review and
found that there are many programs that are quite popular that actually make
the situation worse. There are some key principles and evidence that should
be followed in developing these programs. For example, be careful not to
model a lot of bullying because you give people ideas of how to do it even
better. In one case in which we were involved, we showed how popular you
could be if you bullied, so, not surprisingly, the rates of bullying for
girls went up rather than down.
This is why it is so important to have the evidence to show which
programs are effective and which need more work before putting all your
effort into working with them.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Does PREVNet have the resources and
administrative capacity to have a centre of excellence or best models? How
do you inculcate the national groups that you work with?
Ms. Pepler: This is where our partnership with the Public Health
Agency of Canada has been extraordinary. They have a portal for best
practices. We have been working with them around their violence prevention
portal. We have been reviewing programs through systematic processes and
putting them up. We have been reviewing programs that are promising, such as
the Red Cross's Walking the Prevention Circle, which has some data but not
quite enough. We can put it up for a promising program for working with
Aboriginal youth in communities.
Senator Nancy Ruth: How do you market it, though?
Ms. Craig: They need to do more work. It is a work in progress.
The portal is owned by the Public Health Agency of Canada. We are advising
them on how to mark the violence prevention portal. It is a work in
progress, but it is incredibly important.
Programs will not be the total answer to this, and I do not want to leave
you with the message that they are. The answer does not come in a box. It is
one element that we can put into place, but at the end of the day it is
about the strategies and the moment-to-moment interactions that adults have
with children and youth.
When I have completed my 45-minute violence prevention program in class
and 10 minutes later I am yelling at the children to sit down, I have
undermined what I have done. That is why we need to reach out to every adult
that works with children and youth. We need them to be aware of how they are
modeling their behaviour, how they can act as positive coaches to shape and
mold children's behaviour, how they can identify the risky behaviours in
which children are engaging and prevent those and coach them to behave
differently in that moment.
We need to think about how they can engage in what Ms. Pepler called
Ms. Pepler: That is just how to organize children's groupings.
Some children should not be together. We have lots of research on why highly
aggressive children should not be together, because they just make each
other worse. We think that adults should take responsibility whenever they
can for ensuring that aggressive children are not together and that
marginalized children are embedded in healthy relationships.
To come back to Senator Hubley's question about whether there is a policy
in place, we have been in many schools where there have been policies in
place. They used to be called codes of behaviour; they are not called
bullying prevention policies. There are lots of policies. In some schools
into which we have been called they shake their heads and say, "We have a
terrible problem with bullying in this school." We spend a bit of time in
the school and realize that the students are bullying each other, the
teachers are bullying the students, the teachers are bullying each other and
the administration is bullying the teachers. This is a societal community
problem that goes well beyond the school. We have many models of bullying in
the media for our children and youth to look at. It goes beyond those kinds
To give a hopeful example, Australia is quite courageous in addressing
some of these things. One of their public service announcements is called
"Children See, Children Do." You can find it on YouTube. It is a very
hard-hitting public service announcement about how adults model behaviour
and children copy us.
Ms. Craig was talking about the self-awareness that we each need in our
role as parents, teachers or coaches around our use of power and whether we
are using it aggressively or positively.
Ms. Craig: We would say this fits under a public health promotion
issue and every adult in Canada needs to know evidence-based strategies
about how to interact effectively and build healthy relationships. PREVNet
is built on the premise that healthy relationships result in healthy
development. If we can help adults understand how to interact effectively
with children, whether you are a parent, a coach, a recreation leader, an
after-school caregiver or a community leader, then we can really change how
We also need to make adults responsible for children and youth everywhere
they live, learn, work and play. When I walk to school and I see bullying,
if I walk by, then I am as guilty at those peers who do not intervene.
Adults need to respond and be effective in intervening and supporting
children and youth. We have to send that message.
Senator Ataullahjan: I know, Dr. Pepler, that you are involved in
the SNAP Girls Connection program. Do you see a difference between girls and
boys and the types of bullying they are involved in? Should gender play a
role in developing anti-cyber-bullying initiatives?
Ms. Pepler: I will talk a little bit about SNAP. It helps me,
because it is also about providing children and youth with the capacities
for healthy relationships.
I have been involved with the SNAP programs since their inception. This
is a program we developed because the girls were not doing well when we had
them embedded in groups with boys. In fact, they were getting lots of
opportunity to learn how to be aggressive, so we separated the girls out.
In our review of the literature, we looked at the different motivations
that boys and girls have. Girls are highly motivated to have close
relationships. Boys have close relationships but in a different way. They
are of no less quality in terms of relationships, but they are different.
Boys like doing activities together.
Girls' relationships with their mothers are tremendously important. In
our research, girls' relationships with their mothers mediate their health.
Aggressive girls' health is pretty good if they have a good relationship
with their mother but very poor if they have a poor relationship with their
In developing the program, we help the girls become more regulated and to
control their emotions and behaviour. We have worked with neuroscientists.
Children who go through the program successfully, the brain activity and
patterns change. Once you get the children to calm down and regulate and
solve problems more effectively, that, in turn, helps their behaviour and
However, you cannot just train a child; you also need to work with the
people who are there with them much of the time. Parents go through a
similar training program. We have not yet looked at their brains and how
they change, but I imagine they do, as they learn to control and not just
yell and scream at the children, who are hard to raise in the first place.
We also extend the work out to schools and communities, and we find that
Are there slightly different ways of approaching the intervention with
girls and boys? I think the answer to that question is yes. It is not that
the whole program is different, because as human beings we develop in
similar ways and we have similar needs for social connectedness. Girls and
boys both have needs for adults who will control them, monitor them, contain
them and help them to move along and to be really loving with them. However,
because girls have a strong orientation to relationships and because mothers
are so important in their world, in a different way from boys, we really
worked hard at that element of it.
Also, girls' sexual development was a risk factor that came out, and so
we developed with public health nurses a subsequent program called "Girls
Growing Up Healthy," where the girls learned to talk to their mothers about
sexuality, sexual development, relationships and other things. The answer is
that there are many elements that are the same and some that are a bit
Senator Ataullahjan: Has there been a change in girls' behaviour?
Are they more aggressive? I do not know if you saw recently in Toronto where
we had a video that was filmed on the cellphone of three 15-year-olds who
were kicking and beating up on a 35-year-old who claimed she was pregnant.
That video went viral. It was repeated on all the news networks, on the
computer and everywhere. Someone stood there and filmed that while these
three 15-year-olds kicked a woman who was lying on the ground and who
claimed that she was pregnant. As it turned out, she was not pregnant, but
at that stage they thought she was pregnant.
Are we seeing girls becoming more aggressive in their behaviour
physically, and what has changed in the past few years?
Ms. Pepler: The crime statistics suggest there has been a general
decrease in crime but somewhat of an increase in girls' violent crime. What
I find so interesting about that episode, highly distressing but so
interesting, is that young people seldom do extreme things like that by
themselves. We could see this when we videotaped hundreds of hours on the
school playground. When a group of highly aggressive youth get together,
they do things together that they would never ever do by themselves.
What happens — and again, the brain research helps us think about this —
is they get highly aroused and really excited; and the more excited they
get, the less brain energy there is to think about anything logically. It
comes at a time of life when their brains are reorganizing anyway, and they
just do not think.
What is different? I think what is different is that family structures
have changed. In terms of the balance between time spent with parents and
time spent with peers, it used to be that, even at 15, you would be with
your parents for dinner, you would be at home all evening, and you would not
Now, with the cyber-world, it is all different. You are connected much
less with your parents and much more with your peers. Even when you walk
through the door of the house, which used to be a safe haven, where you did
not get connected to all the other anti-social girls in your grade, now you
can plan things and the parents are not aware. There is a very different
shift in the kinds of influences that children are getting. At 15, I think
young people still need a lot of influence from their parents.
Ms. Craig: What that story highlighted for me was how critical it
is for understanding bullying. From our observational research, when we did
the videotaping, we saw that in 85 per cent of the episodes there were peers
watching. They are there and they know it is happening. We were the first to
be able to capture on tape, literally, what the peer processes were, what
unfolds, and what peers do when bullying happens.
There are a couple of important points. First, the more peers who join
the episode, the more aggressive the episode gets because they provide this
audience. We counted who they were looking at and what they were saying. The
majority of the time they are looking towards the child who is doing the
bullying, and the majority of the time they are talking to the child who is
bullying. In other words, there is a large audience. If you are sitting
there and looking interested in what I am saying, I can go on for hours. How
long do you want to stay tonight?
That is what happens in bullying. This large audience comes in; they
focus the attention on the child who is doing the bullying; that child feels
positively reinforced; and so the more peers who come, the more aggressive
and longer the episode gets. Peers, inadvertently, are supporting bullying.
They are there, they are supporting it, and they play different kinds of
roles. Sometimes they actively join in by throwing a punch or clapping.
Sometimes they do nothing.
Sometimes they do intervene; there is a positive piece here. They
actually intervene more than adults, which is good, and they can do that
because they are present.
When we looked at those same peer roles in terms of the electronic roles,
we found that peers engage in the same roles in electronic bullying. In
other words, sometimes they intervene; sometimes they are what we call
"secondary aggressors" — they pass on the information, they connect with
the link; and sometimes they engage in the bullying.
The peer processes online and the peer processes in face-to-face bullying
are very similar. That is hugely important when we think about what we will
do about the problem. It means that peers have to be part of our solution
because they are present, they can let adults know and they have an ability.
What those students will tell you is they do not have the strategies or
the skills, and they do not trust adults to be effective at it. That also
tells us what we need to do to intervene. We need to think very carefully
about how it becomes a health promotion issue, to promote student-to-student
engagement, but they need the adult backup and the adult support.
Senator Ataullahjan: Do you find generally when the peers do
intervene, the bullying does stop? Have you seen those statistics?
Ms. Pepler: We were able to code this again on our tapes. Every
time we saw a peer come in, we coded for 10 seconds afterwards. When peers
intervened, bullying stops 57 per cent of the time within 10 seconds.
There is no metric; there is no ruler that we can look at to say how
strong is 10 seconds. However, we were doing this research when my children
were quite young, in elementary school, about this age; and I thought, when
I tell them turn off the TV and come for dinner, how often do they do it
within 10 seconds? The answer is never within 10 seconds.
That is a really strong effect, but why would young people be so attuned
to this kind of peer intervention? I think the answer is that needing to
belong, being recognized in the peer group is so important at that age.
There is nothing that is a stronger motivator or goal at that age. When
someone challenges your behaviour and challenges your position, you think,
oh well, I will just leave it for now and maybe come back to it later.
I think that there is tremendous potential, if we support children and
youth, to have them help us with these types of interventions.
Senator Hubley: I wondered when you were following the students
over the years, if during that time they were at an age or in a grade that
did have a policy or they did have a teacher that gave some direction as to
what appropriate behaviour would be, and if you saw any difference because
Ms. Pepler: I am not sure we saw that in our longitudinal study in
the high schools that we were in. There were various policies. Bullying was
starting to be put on to the agenda. We had ourselves done some work in
Toronto with the Toronto School Board developing and evaluating bullying
Our best way of answering that question is that in our first
observational study, there was no bullying prevention program. In our second
study, there was a program. The differences between the two studies give an
indication of how things can change when you put an intervention in.
The frequency of teacher intervention doubled on the playground. In our
first study, teachers intervened 4 per cent of the time; in our intervention
study, teachers intervened 9 per cent of the time when we observed a
bullying episode. In our first study, students intervened 10 or 11 per cent
of the time; in our second study, it went up to 22 per cent of the time. We
were able to double some of those effects.
What was so interesting, though, when we had our intervention in place —
we have since done some other analyses — the children who were moderately
involved in bullying changed very quickly. The children who were moderately
involved in victimization changed very quickly.
The children who were highly victimized took a long time, 18 to 24
months, before that really changed significantly. The children who were
highly involved in bullying did not change over an 18-, 24- and 30-month
period, because those children need mental health support. They need much
more intensive intervention than this universal intervention can provide.
These are the children who have very serious mental health problems and
families are struggling to raise them. These are the children who will
probably be in our justice system. That is what our data would suggest.
Senator Zimmer: Are you saying that the more attentive we are, the
more you will bully us?
Ms. Craig: I was actually writing that down.
Senator Zimmer: Is there any correlation that follows right
through, and that is from electronic bullying the night before? The previous
witness said he asked the young lad to reread what he wrote — because
usually when you do it, you do it with passion and anger, and all of a
sudden you go back to it and say, did I really say that? Yes, you did. You
either change it — that is the biggest bridge, to go to the next day.
Is there any correlation or research that you have that goes from
electronic to face-to-face the next day or whenever, to violence and then
the end result, unfortunately, of suicide, murder or whatever? Is there any
correlation of those three or four stages? Do you have any percentage of
evidence of that?
Ms. Craig: We started our longitudinal study before electronic
bullying became prevalent, so we can talk about the developmental trajectory
of power and aggression. In the longitudinal study, we followed children for
seven years. We found that those children who bullied regularly and
frequently in elementary school were much more likely — do you remember the
per cent of the delinquency?
Ms. Pepler: One hundred per cent of them were high or moderate on
delinquency; 97 per cent of them were high or moderate on sexual harassment,
so it just transforms into these other forms. In grade 8, children who
bullied were three to four times more likely to be involved in gangs. In
another study that was done by the group that does the SNAP programs, the
children who bullied at 8 to 10 years were two and a half times more likely
when they were 18 to have a criminal record.
Ms. Craig: In other words, children who are bullying regularly and
frequently in elementary school have learned to use power and aggression in
their peer relationships. They transfer them into their romantic
relationships because they are also much more likely to engage in physical
aggression in their romantic relationships. They are much more likely to
engage in delinquent and criminal acts.
Bullying is a red flag for significant problems. The thing we say to
others is that bullying is a red flag. Bullying problems do not just go
away. It is not something that kids grow out of. They grow into much more
significant and serious kinds of problems.
When you look at children who have been victimized regularly and
frequently in elementary school, you are at high risk if you are a girl for
eating problems, and for boys and girls, depression, anxiety and social
isolation. These things are definitely related, that you go into much more
significant mental, physical and emotional health issues.
Senator Zimmer: The biggest gap I am looking at is it is one thing
to do it electronically, where you do not see anyone face-to-face; but later
when you confront them, is there any strong relationship to doing it
electronically and the confrontational layer?
Most people are cowards, my father taught me. You get the bully, you get
the gang. My real question is, is there any large bridge between the
electronic and the confrontational layer, because it is a totally different
reaction? What I mean is, yes, big talker, because there is no one in front
of you; but when you get to class or to school, that person is face-to- face
and you could end up with a shiner; it is a huge gap. Do you have any
research on that leap from electronic to physical?
Ms. Pepler: The things that come to mind for me are — and one of
our slides talked about it — 99 per cent of the youth who bully
electronically also bully in traditional ways. There is a substantial
overlap, which was a surprise to us.
When we started this research, we thought that there would be this secret
group of youth who were not empowered face-to-face that would go into this
covert, removed, potentially anonymous — although it is not largely — type
of bullying to get revenge. Also, we know that some children who are
victimized persistently shift over and move into bullying behaviour; then
they become both children who bully as well as children who are victimized.
The question that you are raising is a really important one: Is there a
carry-over effect? I think the answer is yes, that it probably goes in both
directions. It probably goes from having cyber-bullied to being
face-to-face, and then it goes from being face-to-face to moving into the
Ms. Craig: We know also that youth who report being victimized
electronically are much more likely to carry weapons. I think it is for
exactly the reason you speak of, that fear of carry-over.
Senator Ataullahjan: I have so many questions — hopefully I will
be able to verbalize all of them. I have two girls and we still sit
together, we eat together, we do everything together. When I proposed this
study in October, I was talking to my younger one, who is a 20-year-old
student in university.
I said I am proposing this study on cyber-bullying and bullying. She said
bullying nowadays is like a prison sentence; you cannot escape it. She said
that no matter where you go, it follows you.
I find that most of the children do not switch off their cellphones.
Quite often, at 2:30 in the morning I will hear something and I will say who
is messaging you at this time? There is that need to stay connected. How do
we teach these children to switch off? What is this addiction that they
have? That is one of my questions. The other thing is about cyber-bullying
The Chair: Can you answer that question first?
Ms. Pepler: I think this is a public health concern. We need to
help both parents and youth think about healthy behaviour — what is expected
and how you manage.
At some point, we are going to have to help young people and parents
understand that when you get a cellphone, it is not to be on 24 hours a day.
When we talk to parents, we encourage them not to let their children have
computers in their rooms, and to have a curfew on cellphones at 10 o'clock
or 11 o'clock at night. The cellphones come down to a central spot to be
charged every night and you can pick them up in the morning.
What is happening is that it is a health issue; children are not getting
appropriate sleep. If they are electronically bullied in the middle of the
night, they are awake for the rest of the night. It is invading their lives.
I think you raise a tremendously important concern. In the same way that
we help parents teach their children they have to brush their teeth, there
are health behaviours you need to do to regulate your life and your diurnal
rhythm and keep yourself healthy, and this is one.
Ms. Craig: New research has shown that 50 per cent of the time
that youth are online, they are online on their cellphones. We have to
really think about what is the proper etiquette around this type of
technology. They are now using their phone applications to do all the things
they used to do on the home computer. We need to teach them that etiquette
is about health promotion; it is about teaching them appropriate behaviour.
Senator Ataullahjan: It is also a different mindset. In my case, I
will leave a voice mail and my kids will send me a text message back.
The other thing I feel is that as parents, we are somehow afraid to have
serious conversations with our children. We are afraid of confrontation. I
find that a lot of the mothers who are working are desperately trying to
please their children. I see it in a lot of people that I know, where they
are afraid of confrontation.
The role of the mother and father is occasionally to enforce discipline
and lay down the law. We are not seeing that. That is what I have seen and
witnessed. I do not know why that has happened. I do not know if there is
anything anyone can do, but I just wanted to put it on the record.
Ms. Craig: You have identified one of the critical issues here.
What probably gives children the ability to have pure boundaries from adults
on this issue is because they are the experts. Adults do not fully
understand the technology; they do not understand how it works, its
capabilities and multiple uses. Youth get more freedom around that because
adults do not even have the knowledge to set the appropriate boundaries that
we would set, or the guidelines that we would set. There is a whole public
health piece about adults getting educated about the technology and the use
of the technology and the health benefits.
I cannot emphasize too much the point that Ms. Pepler raised about enough
sleep. It is fundamental that youth get the sleep they require for good
Senator Ataullahjan: The other question is about cyber-bullying in
Canada. With the increasing use of technology, is it more common than
physical or verbal bullying? Do we attribute most of the recent rash of
suicides to cyber-bullying? Are there more of them or is it just that the
media is talking about the issue more?
Ms. Craig: I am trying to remember the most recent data from the
health behaviour survey of children and youth. It is not the most common. I
think they are all pretty equivalent in terms of the form of bullying.
Verbal bullying is the most common; physical bullying is the least common,
but social and cyber-bullying are relatively equal. I cannot tell you the
exact percentages but that is in general.
Ms. Pepler: I would say also it is important to remember that it
is the same youth who are doing the different forms. It is most often the
same person who is doing the bullying, but he or she finds different ways of
The other question you asked is whether there are more suicides. I think
that is a very hard question to answer. For the ones that have been in the
paper, it seems like electronic bullying has been part of a constellation of
abuses that have been borne by the youth who have committed suicide. It is
difficult to say.
The primary work in this field started in Norway in 1983 after four young
boys committed suicide. This is not a new phenomenon. We may be recognizing
it more. Young people may be leaving notes that help us link their suicide
to the abuse at the hands of peers.
Senator Ataullahjan: I have a great interest in Norway, because
they have a program there where the emphasis is on peer support. I think
that has been very successful. In the statistics I have seen, they are
saying that bullying was down by as much as 40 per cent. Is that something
Canada should be learning from?
Ms. Craig: Their program has had huge success. It has had less
effect when it has been brought to North America. We are a more
heterogeneous culture and there are maybe cultural effects that the program
needs to take into effect.
One thing that is important is that we now know — there have been meta
analyses; someone has looked at all of the studies that have done research
on all the bullying prevention programs out there — there are core
components that are essential for success that bullying programs should
have. I do not think it is a one program fits all; there are key elements.
I can identify those elements for you. If it is school based, there has
to be a whole school approach; there has to be support for the individual
child who bullies and the child who is bullied. There has to be classroom
activities, school- wide activities and engagement with the parents. The
most successful programs also engage the larger community. Those are key
elements that need to exist.
I think the Norwegian program is a successful program; it has a good
track record. However, there are other successful programs that have a good
track record, such as the WITS program, which is a Canadian-made one. That
might be something important to think about and take into account.
Senator Ataullahjan: Do you have any data on how common
ethno-culturally based — based on ethnicity, race or religion —
cyber-bullying is? Are particular groups affected more by cyber-bullying
Ms. Craig: I do not know the data on cyber-bullying per se. I know
of no Canadian data on cyber-bullying.
Ms. Pepler: We asked students in our longitudinal study about
this, and about 17 per cent of refugee or immigrant children reported that
they had experienced ethnically-based bullying. It was not cyber-bullying.
Seventeen per cent in late elementary school and about 21 per cent of those
youth in high school reported that they had been racially bullied.
Senator Ataullahjan: I have seen it in the schools. You would have
a young Muslim girl wearing a hijab being bullied because of covering her
head, the Hindu kids being bullied because they have so many gods, and I
could go on and on. I was just wondering whether it had transferred to
Senator Nancy Ruth: Could I ask a question about this? Have there
not been studies done?
Ms. Craig: Not on cyber-bullying, but on face-to-face.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Would you guess that maybe it does not exist
to the same prevalence because those people are invisible? That is a
question for you to think about when you decide to measure it.
Ms. Craig: There is some research to show that it is being a
minority that matters, not being of a specific culture, but being of a
minority in that school context. I have a student who is looking at who the
majority in the school is versus who the minority is and who the majority in
the neighbourhood is versus who the minority is. It may not be a specific
group, but it is actually the proportion of particular groups in a community
or a school.
Senator Ataullahjan: I am interested in cyber-bullying, and I see
what different countries are doing. There was something out of New Zealand
today; they are proposing a tough new law. They are saying that victims of
cyber- bullying could strike back at their tormentors through a new easily
accessible Internet enforcer, capable of imposing fines, ordering apologies
or even terminating the offender's Internet account under a proposal
revealed today. Is this something that Canada could look at? Is this
something that would be helpful? We can learn from other countries where
they have had a certain measure of success.
Ms. Pepler: In response to that, I would go back to the point that
Ms. Craig made earlier about a developmental perspective. We know young
people who bully have not learned a lot of the critical skills for healthy
relationships, and they need opportunities to learn. Learning how to get
along in a face-to-face world is so complex. Learning how to get along in a
world where there are no rules is even more complex because right now there
are no rules for etiquette and engagement in the electronic world.
Rather like the kind of legislation we have here, I would hope that we
would go through many, many stages of trying to educate a youth, to monitor
and counsel that youth and to get the youth's family involved before we went
to those extreme measures. We need to understand that learning how to get
along with others is a very complex skill.
Senator Ataullahjan: We are reverting back to family then. That is
where the child learns about relationships because that is where they are
before they are exposed to the outside world. What I am gathering from this
— you can correct me if I am wrong — is that the relationships that you form
within your family and the relationship the parents have with their children
are ultimately what determine whether the child will be a bully or get
bullied? That may be simplifying it, but are we just reverting back to
Ms. Pepler: I think it is the family, the peer group that that
young person is associating with, the media that that young person is
exposed to, and, really, the community. We do not see this, necessarily, as
just a family or a school problem. It is everyone's responsibility to help
young people learn these things.
I think that if we were going to think about a law like this in Canada, I
would have many mechanisms. One would be to be sure that that youth went and
got additional education around cyber-bullying. Another would be to have
ways of monitoring that youth's behaviour so that the IP address would be
followed and there would be a way of monitoring that. Another would be to be
sure that if they were not doing well, we would give them additional support
and find out what was going on. Maybe that child, unbeknownst to someone
else, is also being bullied. It is much more complex.
Ms. Craig: We think of it from a systemic perspective, with the
child in the centre and then the family, other socializing adults, the
school, the community and, to correspond with the earlier testimony, the
corporations. All of us have a responsibility, and intervention and
prevention has to take place at all of those levels if we are going to be
successful. We need new policies in place for those corporations. We need
support for adults who socialize, and we need education. We need a public
education campaign for adults who interact with children, for all adults
because it is the responsibility of all adults. At each level, there are
different types of interventions. Those different types of interventions
change with age. We will do one thing, if we do it early. We will do another
thing by the time they hit adolescence. There should be a lot of things in
place early because bullying is such a red flag for all of these other
problems later. We also know that elementary school peers play a significant
role, so we need to put in the peer piece and empower the peers to intervene
at that point. They interventions have to be gender sensitive, age sensitive
Senator Ataullahjan: Is cyber-bullying a problem in developed
countries? In Third World countries most people have access to cellphones
and computers too. As someone who is originally from Pakistan, I go back. I
have nieces and nephews, and I have never heard them complain about
cyber-bullying. They use the computer and the phones, but the issue of
cyber-bullying has not come up. It might be the wrong question to ask at
this stage, but is there some data to say that this is something we are
seeing a lot more in the developed world?
Ms. Craig: My guess would be yes. I do not know of a lot of
research in underdeveloped countries on this issue, so my guess would be
Senator Ataullahjan: I do not mean to put you on the spot, but
would there be any reason why we are seeing more of it in a society where
the children do have more than the kids in different parts of the world? In
Western society, or in developed countries, what are we not doing, what are
we not getting right and how can we get things right?
Ms. Pepler: I think our society is a very competitive and
individualistic society and has become increasingly so. Bullying tends to be
quite a universal phenomenon, in the traditional sense of the word. I think
if you had gone back 40 years in Canada and asked children if they have been
bullied or bullied anyone, most children would say, "Oh, no, that is not
true." I think we have a much greater sensitivity to it, and when you have
a greater sensitivity, you are more likely to report it and recognize it as
something that you do.
There are many, many aspects to this that we need to look at.
Fortunately, we are well connected to international researchers. There is a
good community of people looking into this, and we can learn so much from
other countries that are doing better than we are and other countries that
are struggling with this.
Senator Nancy Ruth: I have three questions. What percentage of
youth are involved in electronic bullying or any kind of bullying? My hunch
is it is close to 100 per cent, but I want to hear you say it. My second
question is around peer intervention.
If bullying is going on and a peer intervened on Facebook to try and stop
it, would that add oil to the fire or stop it?
My third question is on the issue of pardons. The Senate is about to deal
with a bill that deals with giving pardons or not. The witness before you
told stories about kids who did stuff, said they were sorry, and they did it
when they were young. This could impact them when looking for jobs and so
forth. What do you two think about pardoning people who do severe bullying,
some of which may be criminal?
Ms. Pepler: The graph showed about 20 per cent of girls had been
Senator Nancy Ruth: Is it the same 20 per cent in each one of
those lines? When I looked at that graph that is one of the questions I
Ms. Craig: No, because there are different kids at different
grades. Those are different kids. The children and youth survey was
collected in 2005-06 and again in 2010 for the second time. The 2010 is
close to a nationally representative example. That is a good indicator.
There are regional differences and a lot is driven by satellites and towers.
That has a huge impact on cyber-bullying in this case.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Are you saying roughly 30 per cent?
Ms. Craig: It is about 20 per cent. It differs by age and gender.
It is hard to give one number.
Senator Nancy Ruth: The other two questions were on pardons and
intervening on Facebook.
Ms. Craig: Peers can have a positive impact. Face-to-face research
says when peers intervene it is effective. However, they do not have the
strategies and do not feel confident in actually executing it. We could do
is provide them with strategies, but they will always need the adult backup.
They can be effective if it is safe for them to intervene.
Senator Nancy Ruth: We all live in the world of politics which has
its own form of bullying too. However, as a general rule of thumb I have
lived my life as, "Do not do anything alone. Try and get two or three,
otherwise you get crucified." Would that be the same for the kids?
Ms. Craig: Yes, the same politics exist among children.
Ms. Pepler: On that question with pardons I will answer with a
story. I had a wonderful opportunity to be with 100 Native American leaders
in Alaska a couple of years ago presenting on bullying. I made a point of
sitting with the elders at lunch and dinner because I have much to learn
from them. I asked how they raised their children and youth and how it is
different from how we raise children and youth with our Western ways. A
Yup'ik Eskimo elder said the way they do things was quite different than the
way we do things. The biggest difference is they honour children's mistakes.
When a child makes a mistake it gives us the best opportunity to teach that
child. We can step in. The lessons are meaningful. It gives us a wonderful
opportunity. When you study development of children, you understand they
always learn by trial and error. They try things, recognize they do not
work, do not do them anymore, or recognize — in the case of some children
who bully — they get a lot of attention, admiration and status for doing
that, so they continue.
There is probably a developmental cut-off. If children were learning —
and we had not given them the support they needed to understand that what
they did was wrong — there should be opportunity to correct their mistakes,
and for us to teach them as opposed to punishing them. Children learn when
you teach them, primarily.
What does that mean in the adult world? I am not sure. I do know that
brains continue to develop until we are 25 to 30. Lots of learning does not
get consolidated and we are not full human beings for a long time. It is a
challenge. I admire the work you do in dealing with these very important
issues for our country.
Senator Baker: We have had teachers' organizations that have
passed resolutions and motions annually saying that bullying should be made
a criminal offence. We now have two private members bills before the House
of Commons suggesting that it be included in three separate provisions of
the Criminal Code.
What do you think of those motions by teachers' federations and private
members bills that are presently before the House of Commons?
Ms. Craig: I would stand by our theme of the day, which is that
children and youth are developing young beings and to criminalize it does
not provide the educative consequences that they may need. We talk about
bullying as a relationship problem. They require relationship solutions.
That helps us understand the best way to intervene or the best kinds of
consequences. The best consequences to deal with a relationship problem is
to come up with ways to provide children and youth with the learning
opportunities to develop the skills, capacities and competencies to engage
in effective and healthy relationships. At the same time, part of it is
making repairs about the errors they have done and repairing that
I think before we get into a criminal process we have to take lots of
steps. That point might come, but we have to ensure we provided those
educational opportunities for children and youth to develop skills before
getting to the punitive context.
Senator Baker: In the case of a child who commits suicide because
of bullying, do you think there should be a provision in the law of
accountability for those doing the bullying?
Ms. Pepler: Can I answer that part second?
We have frequently been asked whether bullying should be a criminal
behaviour and I agree totally with what Ms. Craig has said. The other
concern I have is that I think the laws — as they stand — cover many of the
behaviours we would put under the rubric of bullying; physical forms of
aggression, hateful forms of aggression. I am not sure about the social
forms of aggression or the cyber. Many of the behaviours we would
criminalize in our country would be the behaviours we would see as the
extreme forms of bullying. There may currently be provisions in the law that
cover that. I do not know. That is a legal question.
In terms of accountability for suicide, this is very complex. The reason
it is complex is that bullying is never about one child being aggressive. I
would like you to understand that. When we observe it on the school
playground, 85 per cent of the time there are other children watching. What
studies are done of cyber-bullying, 85 per cent of the students say they
have been in a situation where they observed or have seen it unfolding. It
unfolds in a peer context that drives it. When another joins in, the child
who was initially aggressive becomes more excited and aggressive. It is not
about one child. It is always about a group of children. That would be the
case for the children who have unfortunately been driven to suicide. It has
been a group of children or youth who have been involved.
The other thing in cases of suicide is that we have not been able to look
deeply at the mental health of the child who has been suicidal. The effects
of experiencing electronic bullying are not the same for every child. Some
children may be particularly vulnerable because they have a mental illness
problem or other problem that makes them vulnerable. A behavior that affects
one child in a serious way may not affect another child much at all because
of a whole range of things, such as individual characteristics and mental
health, the kind of family support they have, and peer support. It is a
complex process that involves many more people than just the child who is
bullying and the child who is victimized.
Senator Baker: We have sexual assault provisions in the law to
protect the identity of children. In fact, cases under the Youth Criminal
Justice Act have initials only, no names, in reported law.
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal made a decision a couple of months ago
such that a child at school who was being cyber-bullied did not have the
right under the law not to be identified in a civil action against the
Internet provider and the cyber-bullies. A judgment of the Nova Scotia Court
of Appeal a couple of months ago said that the young person's name must be
When a young person in school is being bullied in a manner that results
in a civil action by the parents against the bully, do you think there
should be a provision in the law to protect the identity of the young victim
so that his or her name is not exposed in the media, as was the case in the
Nova Scotia court case? Do you have any comments on protecting the rights of
a young person who is being bullied such that a pseudonym could be used
instead of the real name?
Ms. Craig: For exactly the reason you just mentioned, the UN
convention says that we have to keep children safe and protect them. My
concern in the case you talked about was that disclosing the identity of the
child potentially puts the child at risk for broader victimization. We have
a right to protect children and their identity in this case.
Senator Baker: Are you aware of the case that I referenced?
Ms. Craig: I have read about it in the paper.
Senator Baker: Many of us have read the judgment, but a court of
appeal is the highest court in a province. The next step would be the
Supreme Court of Canada. Unfortunately, when a child or their parents reach
the court stage in a civil matter, costs are always awarded and the parents
find themselves having to pay thousands of dollars just to bring the case
before a court of appeal.
The Chair: You talked about keeping the child safe and protected.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out key rights and
principles intended to promote and protect the best interests of the child.
In your view, is there a way to develop a rights-based approach on the
principles of the UN convention to help children who are impacted by
Ms. Pepler: I absolutely think there is a way. One of our partners
at PREVNet is UNICEF. We are working with them on a rights respecting
schools initiative, which is substantial in England and starting here in
Canada. It is a very different way of approaching education by putting the
best interests and rights of the child first.
One of our other partners is the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of
Children. We will leave the three published volumes with the committee. In
our latest volume, Ms. Kathy Vandergrift, Chair of the CCRC, prepared the
first chapter on bullying from a rights perspective. We have tied it
together in the last chapter about what it means for the well-being of
children and youth in Canada as well as those who are responsible for
ensuring that their rights are upheld. It is a very good approach to the
work, in addition to a health-promotion approach and a crime-prevention
The Chair: You can see that we could ask you questions all night;
we have learned so much from you. I have unreasonable requests of you and I
do not expect you to answer today. Ms. Craig, you talked about what a
successful program would look like, including what would be needed in cases
of bullying to support a child, a family and a community. We are seeking
your help to develop the committee's recommendations. What kind of help
needs to be in place? You may respond in writing to the committee through
the clerk of the committee. What support is needed? What should it look
like? How do you create that support? How can we identify what support
exists in the community?
That is the easy part. You have provided us with a most helpful summary
of your data and research. As well, you mentioned several studies conducted
by PREVNet. Is there additional research or data that you would like to
submit to the committee? During this session and the previous one, some
committee members were looking for data and research. Could you help us with
that? We would appreciate it.
We may invite you to come back to the committee at the end of our study
for a review of the evidence to help us with our analysis. Obviously, the
clerk of the committee will be in touch with you. I would like you to look
at today's meeting as the beginning of our conversation because we have a
lot to learn from you. You have been very generous with your time today and
we thank you.
Ms. Pepler: We are truly honoured to be here. We are so grateful
that you are looking at this issue. When we first received funding from the
federal government nine years ago, it was our dream that Canada would begin
to grapple with these issues. Within PREVNet, we have published three
volumes. The first one has contributions from many international researchers
and the next two have not only our Canadian researchers but also some of the
partners we have worked with. We will leave this for the committee to look
Ms. Craig: You are tasking us, and we are tasking you.
Ms. Pepler: There is more evidence on our website that you are
welcome to reference.
The Chair: This study will be only as good as the people who help
us. Your support will strengthen the study. Thank you.
(The committee adjourned.)