Last month in Canada, a judge sentenced a man to six years in prison for cyberbullying:

An Ottawa man who targeted dozens of people with fake social media accounts and doctored photos in an international cyberbullying campaign has been sentenced to six years in prison.

If you think that his sentence sounds severe, it is worth knowing that he harassed one of his victims for twelve years, after working with him for a few months early in this century. So his sentence was actually half the victim’s losses…

The global reach of the Internet means we can stay in touch with people we want to stay in touch with. But as we all realize, it also means that people we don’t want to stay in touch with can stay in touch with us.

Hence the power of cyberbullying. And the most likely victims are young people.

I’m not sure how seriously to take statistics on cyberbullying, but it is at least believable that 

Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.

More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyberthreats online. Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.

Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs. 

That last point, that kids don’t tell adults what is happening, concerns me most.

Older adults like myself don’t have as big a problem with bullying because we know our basic civil rights. But do young people realize that they needn’t suffer this kind of thing? Lacking a lifetime of experience, they may know little of the body of laws that protect them.

So possibly the most urgent message to get across to the young victim is that telling an adult is not “snitching” or “selling out.” It is a step on the way to accessing one’s civil rights.

Some strategy advice from Canada’s Mounties may be a help:

If you are a victim of bullying Walk away or leave the online conversation.

Keep track of the bullying (write it down and/or save a screenshot of the online message).

Tell a trusted adult. If you don’t trust anyone or need to speak with someone urgently, contact the confidential and toll-free Kids Help Phone [or any similar service in your community].

Report the bullying to school administrators.

Report criminal offences, such as threats, assaults and sexual exploitation to the local police detachment.

Report unwanted text messages to your telephone service provider.

Report online bullying to the social media site and block the person responsible.

I would add, then just start telling people generally, like I did when it happened to me.

See also: Is our every thought ready for prime time? No, but social media make us think so.

This vid seems like a reasonable public service message for kids. It stresses several key points,: Anyone with access to the Internet can be a cyberbully (things might have turned out differently a half century ago on the walk home from school if the bully wasn’t in shape). Also, bullying is always about the bully’s issues, not the victim’s:


Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...