Challenging Cyber Bullying - Media Education Tools to Fight Meanness, Harassment and Hate on the Internet

Ottawa, February 12, 2007 – For today’s highly connected generation of young people, being “always on” means that there’s no escaping the social peer pressures of the school yard. The anonymity of online communications means that kids feel freer to do things online they would never do in the real world. The challenge for parents is that cyber bullying often takes place away from the supervision of teachers and parents. Media Awareness Network, an organisation devoted to promoting media literacy, has developed tools to help teachers, parents and youth to better tackle the issue of cyber bullying.

According to a Media Awareness Network study of 5,200 Canadian students, in Grades 4 to 11, cyber bullying is not an isolated phenomenon. Of the 34 per cent of Canadian students in Grades 7 to 11 who report being bullied, 27 per cent say they were harassed over the Internet. Some students reported disguising their identity online specifically so they could be “mean and not get caught”.

“Children rely on the Internet to explore social roles, stay connected with friends, and develop their social networks,” said Cathy Wing, Media Awareness Network’s Acting Director of Education. “While most social interactions are positive, increasingly e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, photos from digital camera phones and Web sites can be used to undertake rigorous and destructive campaigns of denigration, harassment and bullying of others. We need to educate young people to recognize the difference between harmless online chatter and hurtful behaviour,” she added.

To assist teachers in dealing with cyber bullying, Media Awareness Network has developed a professional development workshop that explores the pervasiveness of online bullying, why the Internet is such an effective tool for harassment and the role of the victim, perpetrator and bystander in cyberspace. The workshop offers strategies for librarians, teachers and parents on how to help young people develop responsible online behaviour and to strike a balance between freedom of expression and creating an environment in which children and youth are free from harassment.

The Cyber Bullying workshop is part of Media Awareness Network’s Web Awareness Workshop Series. Designed for primary and secondary teachers, the workshops explore a variety of Internet-related issues, including: safety, ethical use, privacy, marketing and the authentication of online information.

For parents and children, Media Awareness Network continues to offer a wealth of topical information on media issues on its bilingual Web site. “Challenging Cyber Bullying” found at: /english/resources/special_initiatives/ wa_resources/wa_shared/backgrounders/challenge_cyberbullying.cfm provides tips for parents, schools and kids on how pro-actively prevent and challenge cyber bullying.

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About Media Awareness Network

Media Awareness Network is a non-profit Canadian organization whose mission is to support and encourage media and Internet education, and its widest possible integration into Canadian schools, homes and communities. Its aim is to help children and youth to develop an informed and critical understanding of the nature of the media, the techniques used in creating media products and the media’s role and influence within society. MNet is sustained by the generous support of its sponsors and partners, who include: Bell Canada • CHUM Television • Microsoft Canada • Rogers Yahoo! Hi-Speed Internet • TELUS • CTV Inc. • Canadian Recording Industry Association • National Film Board of Canada • AOL Canada Inc.

For more information, visit www.media-awareness.ca, or

Contact: Julien Lavoie, Director of Communications – Media Awareness Network. (613) 224-7721; (info@media-awareness.ca).