Cyberbullying Brought Into the Spotlight During Bullying Awareness Week in Canada

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At one time, the concept of “cyberbullying” seemed like a vague and melodramatic reaction to the ages-old problem of bullying. But then parents and teachers began seeing that accessible social media websites had become the chosen platforms for bullies — and being largely unregulated, these websites allowed bullying to reach an all-time dangerous level.

Far too many teens become the victims of relentless cyberbullying, and too many teen victims feel so burdened that they end up taking their own lives. It’s common for these deaths to make waves within their respective communities, but it’s rare that one victim’s struggle will make national — or even international — news.

In 2012, 15-year-old Canadian Amanda Todd took her own life after managing to fend off her bullies for two years. This past spring — the spring of 2014, and two years after her death– one of her primary cyberbullies was finally identified, and Todd’s story came back into the news.

It isn’t surprising that many anti-bullying advocates took advantage of the media’s concern with cyberbullying. It’s expected that parents and teachers would be the main advocates in these anti-bullying campaigns; after all, the kids are the ones instigating and allowing the bullying to happen, right?

But it may be surprising that almost 70% of teens believe that cyberbullying is a huge problem among their peers, and consequently, many of the loudest anti-bullying advocates are teenagers themselves.

In light of Canada’s Bullying Awareness Week 2014, which ran from November 16 – 22, several student-driven campaigns grabbed the attention of news outlets.

#Cyberlove is a new campaign created in memory of Todd, and social media users are encouraged to send a message of love to someone via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. with the accompanying tag #cyberlove.

Similarly, a group founded in 2011 called ‘Fearlessly Girl’ released a new campaign as well, which is called FearlesslyKindand focuses on “girl-on-girl bullying” by uniting teens through discussions on Facebook.

The Canadian government even got involved in the online anti-bullying trend at the beginning of 2014, launching the Stop Hating Online campaign to spread awareness of how cyberbullying is closely linked to criminal activity (particularly the distribution of inappropriate images of underage girls).

It’s almost stunning how long it took for cyberbullying movements to take their campaigns online, considering that online forums are where the most dangerous bullying actually occurs. Parents and teachers may not be able to comprehend the magnitude of a simple “hashtag” on Twitter, but it’s clear that the traditional anti-bullying lessons — received by parents when “they were teens too, you know, once upon a time” — are largely ineffective in the internet-driven world.

The primary goal of these online campaigns is, of course, to get the anti-bullying message out to kids and teens — but maybe adults will even be able to learn a thing or two about cyberbullying.

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