MediaSmarts

MediaSmarts

March 18, 2014 08:07 ET

"Mean Girl" Stereotype Not Supported in New National Cyberbullying Study

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - March 18, 2014) - New national research indicates that Canadian youth face a range of mean and cruel online behaviours with varying degrees of seriousness and impact - with girls more likely than boys to be the recipients.

The sweeping study conducted by MediaSmarts looks at the prevalence and impact of cyberbullying among students in every province and territory. Despite popular conceptions of the "mean girl", boys are more likely to report being mean or cruel online, while girls are more likely to have mean things said about them. Girls are also much more likely than boys to say that cyberbullying has been a serious problem for them.

The research also highlights the complexity of online relationships through the significant overlap between youth who have been cyberbullied and those who cyberbully others, suggesting that much of the meanness that takes place online in part reflects reciprocal conflict in young people's relationships.

"While most students who report having been cyberbullied say it wasn't a serious problem for them, we know that one in ten young people have been seriously impacted by online meanness or cruelty," says Jane Tallim, Co-Executive Director of MediaSmarts. "The research gives us a deeper understanding of the motivations and impacts of cyberbullying, which is critical to ensuring that interventions effectively target those youth who are most at risk."

The not-for-profit organization surveyed over 5,400 students in classrooms across the country on their Internet behaviours and attitudes as part of its Young Canadians in a Wired World study. Cyberbullying: Dealing with Online Meanness, Cruelty and Threats, which was released today at the 46th Banff International Conference on Behavioural Science, looks at youths' experiences with online conflict, the strategies they use to deal with this and who they turn to for support.

Key findings include:

  • 37 percent of students report that someone has said or done something mean or cruel to them online that made them feel badly and 11 percent of students say it was a serious problem for them.
  • 23 percent of students report that they have said or done something mean or cruel to someone online and 9 percent report having made online threats.
  • 55 percent of students who participate in mean online behaviour say they were just joking around.
  • There is a significant overlap (39%) between students who have said or done mean things and students who have had mean things said about or done to them.
  • 65% of students say they have done something to help someone who was being picked on online.
  • Young people say they are most likely to turn to parents for help. Though schools are an important source of education about cyberbullying, teachers are among the last people students turn to if an issue arises.
  • Boys are more likely than girls to harass someone in an online game, make fun of someone's race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, sexually harass someone and make online threats.
  • Boys are just as likely to spread online rumours as girls.
  • Girls are more likely than boys to post an embarrassing photo or video or call someone a name.

To view the Cyberbullying: Dealing with Online Meanness, Cruelty and Threats report, infographic and slide show, visit http://mediasmarts.ca/ycww/cyberbullying-dealing-online-meanness-cruelty-threats. Follow the conversation using hashtag #YCWW.

Young Canadians in a Wired World - Phase III: Cyberbullying: Dealing with Online Meanness, Cruelty and Threats was made possible by financial contributions from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Alberta Teachers' Association.

Future reports based on this data will look at students' habits, activities and attitudes towards: offensive content; online relationships; and digital literacy in the classroom and in the home.

MediaSmarts is a Canadian not-for-profit centre for digital and media literacy. Its vision is that young people have the critical thinking skills to engage with media as active and informed digital citizens.

mediasmarts.ca, @mediasmarts

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