Classroom Resources to Counter Cyberbullying - Portal Page Lesson Plan

While most interactions are positive, increasingly kids are using these communication tools to antagonize and intimidate others. According to a MediaSmarts’ 2014 study Young Canadians in a Wired World, more than one in three Canadian students have been the targets of mean or cruel behaviour online, and one in four have been mean or cruel to someone online.[1]

Cyberbullying can be much more severe in its effects than offline bullying because the targets feel they have no escape. Also, given the wide scope of the Web, there can be many more witnesses to the bullying.

School administrators and teachers are struggling to address this issue with students. When real-world bullying occurs in a schoolyard or classroom, teachers are often able to intervene, but online bullying takes place off the radar screen of adults, making it difficult to detect in schools and impossible to monitor off school property.

Despite this, schools are increasingly being expected to address issues relating to cyberbullying. Dr. Shaheen Shariff of McGill University emphasizes that schools have a responsibility “to adapt to a rapidly evolving technological society, address emerging challenges, and guide children to become civic-minded individuals”[2]. According to Shariff, schools must support a preventive approach to cyberbullying that includes developing informed policies and providing pedagogy that is grounded in scholarship in order to grant equal learning opportunities to all students.

To help educators address this issue in their classrooms, MediaSmarts has developed a series of lessons, in English and in French, to give students a better understanding of the ethical and legal implications of cyberbullying and to promote positive Internet use. Intended to support and enhance school-based anti-bullying and empathy-building programs, Cyberbullying: Encouraging ethical online behaviour comprises the following:

Introduction to Cyberbullying: Avatars and Identity Grades 5-6
In this lesson students are provided with opportunities to explore the ways that digital media leave out many of the cues that prompt us to feel empathy and discuss the importance of using empathy and common sense when talking to others online.

Understanding Cyberbullying - Virtual vs. Physical Worlds Grades 7-8
In this lesson students explore the verbal and visual cues that we rely on to understand how other people are feeling. They then consider the differences between online and offline communication and discuss how these differences may make it difficult to understand the effect our words and actions have on others online.

Cyberbullying and the Law Grades 7-8 and Grades 9-12 (two lessons)
In this lesson students learn about and discuss the legal aspects of cyberbullying. They review a variety of hypothetical scenarios and a case study, and they consider the seriousness of the situations, who is legally responsible, what action (if any) should be taken and by whom.

Cyberbullying and Civic Participation Grades 7-8
In this lesson students explore the concepts of rules, values and ethics and learn how they influence our decision-making, and how they can contribute to creating positive online cultures.

Promoting Ethical Online Behaviour Grades 7-9
In this lesson students learn about ways to manage their privacy and reputation online by exploring their digital presence and to make good choices about sharing other people’s content online.


Cyberbullying: Encouraging Ethical Online Behaviour was produced with support from:

  • Government of Canada
  • Canadian Teachers’ Federation
  • Dr. Shaheen Shariff, Faculty of Education, McGill University
  • Red Cross RespectEd Program

[1] Steeves, Valerie. Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Cyberbullying: Dealing With Online Meanness, Cruelty and Threats. MediaSmarts, 2014.
[2] Dr. Shaheen Shariff and Rachel Gouin, Cyberdilemmas: Gendered Hierarchies, Free Expression and Cyber-safety in Schools. Presented at Safety and Security in a Networked World: Balancing Cyber-Rights and Responsibilities, Oxford Internet Institute Conference, Oxford, U.K., 2005.