Cyberbullying: How to recognize, stop, and prevent it

September 12, 2016

Almost half (42 per cent) of Canadian youth say they have been bullied onlineFootnote1

Cyberbullying happens when someone intends to embarrass, humiliate, or harass another person online. While cyberbullying can involve people of all ages, children and youth are particularly vulnerable to its negative effects. These include damage to a young person’s self-esteem, reputation, and mental health.

As parents, teachers, and role models, we can help children protect themselves from cyberbullying by starting with a conversation about what they see and do online.

Here’s a way to start the conversation: Ask children what they like and don’t like about their experiences online. Talk about your own experiences. Check in with them to see if they have ever felt threatened or embarrassed by what another person has posted to (or about) them online. A conversation starter like this may open the door to talking about cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can take many forms, some of them more subtle than others. It can include name-calling, posting embarrassing pictures of someone, revealing their personal details (also called “doxxing”), and making threats. It can escalate into criminal behaviour, such as sexual harassment, extortion, and even making false accusations to the police or other authorities. This may have serious consequences for the person targeted, such as falling grades, isolation, and depression.

The good news is that most young people watch out for their peers online: 71 per cent of youth who witnessed cyberbullying said they did something to interveneFootnote2. Intervention may take the form of calling out bad behaviour within the online community, or reporting it to parents, teachers, or website administrators.

It is also important to talk to young people about their own behaviour online. What they may perceive as “just a joke” may actually be harmful to someone else. For example, posting an embarrassing picture or video of someone, or just sharing or liking someone else’s post may be harmful to another person.

Young people can also protect themselves by being cautious about sharing personal information and pictures online, as everything posted has the potential to live forever in the digital world, and be seen by friends, family, and strangers.

Perhaps the best way to help children and youth protect themselves and others from cyberbullying is to set an example of good digital citizenship. Parents who point out examples of cyberbullying that they see online or hear about, and react appropriately, are modeling responsible behaviour that can last a lifetime.

You can learn more about protecting feelings online, and how to practice good digital citizenship, at


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