OTTAWA, Monday, December 12, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights
met this day at 4 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
My name is Mobina Jaffer and I welcome you to
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
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
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 messaging.
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-bullying.
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 generation breathes.
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 hand.
The Chair: In committee, we will not do
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
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
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, Internet-ready computer.
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
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 2011/2012 — very bright young people who, I am sure, will be
wonderful teachers — has had training to deal with this issue. This has to
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 considered cool.
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
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 cyber-bullying.
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
The Chair: Mr. Belsey, you have been over
Mr. Belsey: I will wrap up. It is hard to
condense 10 years into 20 minutes.
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 exhibit?
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
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
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 do that.
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 involved.
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 be done.
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 loved it.
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 in French.
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 conflict resolution.
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 them.
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
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 address.
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 up.
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
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 the assignment.
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 program.
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 uses.
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 malaria.
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
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
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. Bill 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 you agree?
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
Mr. Bill 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 treid 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
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
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
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 the variable.
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
Some people would argue there is a sense of
entitlement now among some younger people that maybe was not there in the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Senator Zimmer: Senator, you have hit the
jugular. You must be listening to John Tesh on the American radio station
Senator Andreychuk: I have to say I never
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
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 it is.
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
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 awareness.
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 post?
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
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
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 road.
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
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
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 counters.
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 they will.
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
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
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 attacking children.
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
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 of questions.
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 gets connected.
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 electronically.
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 electronic involvement.
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 increasing communication.
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
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 exhibit?
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 article?
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
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 issue.
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
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
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 health-related concerns.
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
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 behaviour.
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
You mentioned that there were 51 organizations
involved in your net. Can you tell us what kinds of organizations and their
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
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 or whatever?
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 questions.
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
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
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 correct?
Ms. Craig: They were different studies. It
was not the same children.
Ms. Pepler: However, it was consistent in
that the girls were doing more than they would report doing in a traditional
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 that.
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 evidence-based practice.
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 sector.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Are there any school
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 Scouts?
Ms. Pepler: Yes.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Do you have various
religious groups nationally?
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 it.
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
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 pornography?
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 harm?
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
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
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
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
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
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 program.
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
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 evidence-based practice.
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, for example.
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,
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 social architecture.
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
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 of policies.
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 adults intervene.
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
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 mother.
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 social relationships.
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 that helps.
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 different.
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
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 be connected.
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
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
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
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
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
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 of that?
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 intervention.
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
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
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
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
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 electronic medium.
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
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
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 in Canada.
The Chair: Can you answer that question
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
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
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
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 health.
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 doing it.
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
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
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
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 cyber-bullying.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Could I ask a question
about this? Have there not been studies done?
Ms. Craig: Not on cyber-bullying, but on
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
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
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 family?
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 and systemic.
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 yes.
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 victimized.
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 wondered about.
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
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
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 relationship.
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
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
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 used.
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
Senator Baker: Are you aware of the case
that I referenced?
Ms. Craig: I have read about it in the
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 cyber-bullying?
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
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 at.
Ms. Craig: You are tasking us, and we are
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
(The committee adjourned.)