In 2015, MediaSmarts and PREVNet conducted a study of Canadian students – funded by TELUS – to find out how to give youth better advice and support when they witness cyberbullying. That research, Young Canadians’ Experiences with Online Bullying, aimed to discover three things: what are the barriers to witness intervention in cyberbullying? What incentives can increase the likelihood of witness intervention? And which interventions are more or less likely to have a positive outcome?
It is easy for many adults – whether educators or parents – to focus on the negatives of social media in the lives of teens today. This is understandable, because they are the ones who have to deal with the fallout when adolescents make mistakes online (cyberbullying incidents, sexting cases, electronic dating violence, digital reputation drama, and similar forms of wrongdoing).
For more than a decade, MediaSmarts has been a leader in defining digital literacy in Canada. This is reflected in the elementary digital literacy framework we launched in 2015. The Use, Understand & Create framework is based on a holistic approach which recognizes that the different skills that make up digital literacy cannot be fully separated.
One of the biggest changes in our understanding of bullying over the past few years has been our increased awareness of the important role that witnesses, or bystanders, play in any bullying situation. Research on offline bullying has shown that witnesses can be just as important as targets or perpetrators in determining how a bullying scenario plays out. This is especially relevant in the case of electronic bullying, where witnesses have many more choices in how they might engage: they can choose to be invisible, to join in anonymously, to re-victimize someone by forwarding bullying material – or they can choose to intervene, to offer support to the person being targeted and to bear witness to what they have seen