The third chapter of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights’ recent report, Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age, explores how “bullying and cyberbullying have a devastating effect on the welfare of our children, are harmful to their development and their ability to take their place in society.”

(To read the report or the companion guides for youth and parents, please visit the Committee’s website.)

Some key points from the chapter:

  • Research shows that immediate and long term repercussions of bullying impact “not only the victims, but also the bullies and the observers.”
    • As was discussed in Chapter 2, cyberbullying is highly conducive to ‘role-switching’—so it’s more useful to talk about cyberbullying as behaviour.
  • “Young people who appeared before the Committee confirmed that the trauma caused by cyberbullying was potentially more harmful [than traditional bullying] and definitely deserved special attention” (43).
  • Aboriginal youth are particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying due to “numerous factors such as racism, living conditions, economic vulnerability and colonization” (43).
    • “It is essential to support research in order to acquire a better understanding of the impact of these phenomena on young Aboriginal people and to be able to address their needs effectively” (44).
  • “Discrimination in schools can be particularly directed towards those who are and who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, or questioning (LGBTQ)” (44).
    • Schools that have made efforts to promote inclusive cultures, including “the creation of anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia policies, the formation of gay-straight alliances, as well as integrating sexual and gender diversity into classroom teaching and addressing bigotry and intolerance, […] students report a better climate” (45).
  • Cyberbullying has a harmful impact on students’ academic success, and violates their right to an education.
  • Cyberbullying also has an adverse effect on the health of young people. These include physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.
  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Canadian teenagers between the ages of 15 to 19, according to Suzanne McLeod, Curriculum Developed at the Centre for Suicide Prevention. Our committee learned from several witnesses that it’s important “not to treat cyberbullying or traditional bullying as the sole cause of suicide among young people” (48). But we also recognize that “considerable research is still needed [to] acquire a better understanding of the links between cyberbullying and suicide” (49).
  • Professor Shelley Hymel told our committee (emphasis added):

Schools are the most cost-effective place in which to address bullying. For example, several studies have now demonstrated links between early bullying and later delinquency and criminal behaviour. Take that in conjunction with research by an economist named Cohen in 1998 who determined that one high-risk youth who drops out of school and becomes a career criminal costs society $1.3 to $1.5 million over a lifetime. In Canada, it is estimated that we spend over $9 billion annually on relationship violence. I contend that the costs of prevention through our schools and through research would be far less than the cost of dealing with the aftermath.

  • “Witnesses agreed that it was essential to make bullying in schools a priority with a view to reducing violence and crime and to enable young people to develop their full potential and take their place in society” (50).