Bully Free Alberta


©2006 Media Awareness Network. Adapted with permission.

What is cyberbullying
There are several ways that people bully others online
There are two main types of bullying
What is the impact of cyberbullying on children and youth?
How do kids use technology?
Why do people bully?
What does the law say about cyberbullying?
The role of Internet Service Providers and cell phone service providers
Strategies to avoid being cyberbullied

What is cyberbullying?


The Internet has created a new world for people to meet, connect and exchange information. Unfortunately, it has also created another opportunity for bullying.
People can use the Internet to send embarrassing, hurtful and threatening messages. These actions can inflict serious harm on the kids and adults they victimize. This is known as cyberbullying (electronic bullying, online bullying, or cyber harassment).


There are several ways that people bully others online. They do it by:

  • Sending e-mails or Instant Messages containing insults or threats directly to a person.
  • Spreading hateful comments or rumours about a person through e-mail, Instant Messaging or postings on websites and online diaries.
  • Stealing passwords and sending out threatening e-mails or Instant Messages using an assumed identity.
  • Building whole websites, often with password protection, to target specific students or teachers.
  • Posting embarrassing pictures or video footage of someone, or sending unwanted sexual information.
  • Posting defamatory or obscene messages on online message boards, or creating slanderous websites.

Although all online communication can be traced, people might feel anonymous and send messages online that they would not communicate in the off-line world. Or they may bully peers at school and continue this bullying online. Children and youth may not fully realize that the Internet is an extremely public space when they’re sending messages from a private place, like their bedroom
©2006 Media Awareness Network. Adapted with permission.

One in four students from grades 7 to 9 in an Alberta study reported being a victim of cyberbullying (Beran and Li, 2005). The numbers are similar in elementary schools across Canada (Mnet, 2001). Cyberbullying presents a real problem for the targets and their families (Beran and Li, 2005).


There are two main types of bullying:

  • Direct bullying includes:
    • physical behaviors like hitting, kicking, slapping, punching, biting
    • verbal behaviors like giving an insult, swearing at someone, giving dirty looks, threatening someone to get him/her to do something.

  • Indirect bullying includes:
    • deliberately excluding someone from the peer group, gossiping, and controlling who they can have friends.
    • cyberbullying where messages are sent through technology and not in person.

People are likely to use more than one type of bullying. For example, someone who sends embarrassing messages on-line is likely to also try to embarrass this same person at school.

Just like other forms of bullying, cyberbullying is about power and control. Those who bully others are trying to establish dominance over people they perceive to be weaker. Those who bully want to make others feel that there is something wrong with them. The people who bully are the ones responsible for it. No one else can be blamed for their bullying behaviour, and you should never think that you are in any way at fault if you are a victim of their bullying.


What is the impact of cyberbullying on children and youth?

  • Many people feel angry, hurt and anxious.
  • Some students even report a drop in school marks.
  • Feel like the harassment is inescapable because it can be accessed from wherever technology is located.
  • Feel like they’re “walking on eggshells” if they don’t know who the bully is.
  • Feel powerless, frustrated, betrayed, afraid, excluded and exposed.
  • Surprise at how innocent photos and communication can be altered and seen by, or sent to, anyone.
  • Few youth tell their parents that they have been cyberbullied out of shame and fear of losing access to technology they use to communicate with friends.


How do kids use technology?

According to a Canadian survey of 10-14 year-olds conducted by the Kids Help Phone:

  • 33% talked to someone on-line they never met before
  • 30% e-mailed a picture of themselves to someone
  • 22% visited a website they knew parents would not give permission for
  • 20% said/did something they later regretted
  • 17% used the Internet in the middle of the night
  • 13% made friends with a stranger they met on-line
  • 8% sent hurtful messages
  • 5% gave last name, home phone/address
  • 5% made a webcam video of themselves on a site


Why do people bully?

There are many reasons why people bully. Here are some:

  • Children who witness abuse among family members may repeat these forms of aggression among their peers (Baldry, 2003).
  • People who bully may see it as “fun”. Or, they may use it as a way of “teaching someone a lesson”, or “getting even”.
  • People who bully may have low self esteem, but not always.
  • They think it will make them accepted or popular. Most people gain popularity and respect by earning it. People who bully are trying to become leaders through control and domination. What they end up receiving is pseudo-respect and fear instead.
  • People who wouldn’t normally bully may go along with it because they want to fit in. Or perhaps they’re afraid they could be targeted next if they don’t submit to it.


What does the law say about cyberbullying?

Some forms of online bullying are considered criminal acts. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is a crime to:

  • Communicate repeatedly with people if the communication causes them to fear for their own safety or the safety of others.
  • Write something that is designed to insult a person or likely to injure a person's reputation by exposing him/her to hatred, contempt or ridicule.
  • A cyberbully may also be violating the Canadian Human Rights Act if he or she spreads hate or discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or disability.
  • According to Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act, it is a crime to identify a child who was a victim or witness of an offence committed by another child. Someone who takes a picture of someone being attacked and posts the picture on the web may be charged.
  • Some Alberta communities have a bylaw against all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying.

A number of sections in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms also apply to bullying, including:

  • Section 2(b), that freedom of expression, thought and opinion is guaranteed to all Canadians (but not when this expression is considered violent).
  • Section 8, that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security.


The role of Internet Service Providers and cell phone service providers

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the companies that provide Internet access to consumers. Most ISPs have Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) that clearly define privileges and guidelines for those using their services and the actions that can be taken if those guidelines are violated. ISPs and cell phone service providers can respond to reports of cyberbullying over their networks, or help clients identify the appropriate service provider to notify. ©2006 Media Awareness Network. Adapted with permission.



Research about the Internet has shown:

  • Children overwhelmingly use the Internet for socializing and entertainment, rather than for education (Media Awareness Network, 2005).
  • Children tend to value the quick and ease of access to information more than its credibility or accuracy (Shade et al, 2005).
  • Fifty percent of adolescents say they have experimented with their identity online, mostly by pretending to be older and a real-life acquaintance (Valkenburg et al, 2005).
  • Children are usually at home when they receive harassing messages.
  • Only about 13 percent of youth are supervised by a parent when online (Young Canadians in a Wired World, 2005),
  • About five percent of unwanted solicitations are reported to authorities (Wolak et al, 2006).
  • Twenty-five percent of youth have been upset by something said to them in chat rooms (Ipsos-Reid, 2001).


Strategies to avoid being cyberbullied:

  • Guard your contact information. Don’t give people you don’t know your cell phone number, Instant Messaging name, or e-mail address.
  • If you’re being harassed online, immediately:
    • Tell someone you trust.
    • Leave the area or stop the activity (i.e., chat room, Instant Messaging).
    • Block the sender’s messages. Never reply to harassing messages.
    • Save any harassing messages and forward them to your Internet service provider.
    • If the bullying involves threats, tell the police.
  • Take a stand. Speak up when you see someone is harassing another person online. Most people will stop when someone tells them to.

There are tremendous benefits to the Internet. However, quick and easy access to all kinds of information and information exchange also brings risks. Everyone, especially children of youth, are at risk of abuse online through bullying, stalking, sexual solicitation and child pornography.

For more information on getting net smart, visit:

For more information on cyberbullying, visit: (Website developed for youth, by youth, that provides practical advice on how to Stand Up and Stop Bullying.) (Internet safety site for youth developed by the Media Awareness Network.) (Includes information and support for victims of cyberbullying.)





Call the Bullying Helpline 1-888-456-2323 toll-free in Alberta, anytime.
Trained staff are available to help in more than 170 languages.

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