[00:00:01] Hello James, welcome to the podcast. Thank you for joining me today. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the audience and introduce BullyingCanada. 

[00:00:10] Good morning. Thank you for having us. So, my name is James Ryan. I’m the director of communications for Bullying Canada, which is the only national organization that resolves bullying situations for Canadian youth by directly facilitating communication between bullied kids, their tormentors, parents, teachers, school boards, social services and, when necessary, other authorities rather than the typical one-off counseling session. We get proactively involved to try to remedy these situations. 

[00:00:37] Some very important stuff you guys do, James. Why don’t you tell the audience how this organization was formed and a little bit about, we could dive a little deeper into this what programs you guys offer. But, you know, a little bit of background, you guys have been there for a while, just like Netsweeper. I’m sure the audience would love that. 

[00:00:55] Absolutely, so we’ve been around for about 15 years now. We were founded in 2006, our co-founders Rob Benn-Frenette and Katie Thompson were both teens who were experiencing extreme bullying, and they went out looking for resources and unfortunately couldn’t find anything really actionable for them. Together, they built BullyingCanada initially as just an information only website. Later, they made it into a registered charity and opened up our support line, which has grown to be a 24/7 365 resource for youth across the country, to call and get assistance in that proactive manner that we were discussing. Unfortunately, the need for that is ever growing. Last year we saw a 25 percent increase. We’re dealing with about 1300 conversations a day with bullied youth via our live chat, text services, phone and email. 

[00:01:43] So this is a question that we get a lot, I’m sure a lot of schools as well. How does cyberbullying differ from bullying? You know, obviously it’s a matter of technology, but in terms of how the affects it has on a child and how it affects the people who are helping those kids, you know, solve issues regarding that, is there a real difference between the two? And if so, what are they? 

[00:02:03] Sure. Some of the end results are much the same, but there are some special concerns when it comes to cyber bullying. It’s more persistent, it’s permanent, and it’s much harder to notice. So cyber bullying as a definition is bullying that takes place over digital devices, cell phones, tablets, computers, etc. So, it can be by texting, apps, social media, even in gaming situations. It includes sending or posting or sharing negative, harmful, false or just mean content about someone else can include sharing personal or private information causing embarrassment and can often cross the line into unlawful or even criminal behavior. So, it’s commonly associated with social media like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, even Tik Tok, obviously through text and instant messaging, online forum and whatnot. But with the prevalence of social media, digital forums and these sorts of things, the issues are more pervasive, right, because there’s these digital devices are with most people almost 24/7, literally, unless you’re sleeping and sometimes even like that, it’s, you know, in your bed or something. And so, these digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day. So, it’s really difficult for children to, you know, turn that off and find relief. Whereas the quintessential bullying that was sort of limited to school or schoolyard, you know, you go home, and you leave it right.  

So, you have, you know, the majority of the day actually away from it. Whereas this it’s kind of inescapable also because it’s in the sort of digital medium. It’s not as easy for teachers and parents to notice, right, because they’re not overhearing a conversation. They’re not seeing someone, you know, shove or hit someone else. And unfortunately, it’s also pretty permanent because most information on the Web is indexed by Google. It’s on the Wayback Machine, the Internet archive. So, it’s stuff that always comes back up if someone searching their name, it’s really frequent. So, because there’s not a super standard definition, the one I gave earlier is relatively accepted. There’s not that much academic literature about it. So, the studies have a pretty wide range of things based on what questions they’re specifically asking, right, like if the study’s asking in the past 30 days, in the past school year, ever, whatever. But the statistics are pretty staggering. The statistics for normal bullying is about one in three youth experiencing victimization. For cyberbullying, it’s depending on the study, up to 72 percent of youth have said they’ve been victimized by cyber bullying. So, it’s just something they can’t get away from. 

[00:04:38] Those are some really big numbers, especially for cyberbullying. Based off that, my question is, you know, you mentioned cyberbullying takes place on social media, text messages, any sort of channel online, but how common cyberbullying and has it become more prevalent due to the pandemic? 

[00:04:56] Anecdotally, we have some information from 2019 to 2020. So basically, before the pandemic and everything going pretty much fully remote, and then in the midst of the pandemic, we saw our numbers of youth reaching out for support jump by roughly a 25, 26 percent. A common theme through that was this sort of cyberbullying, because they found it more inescapable with, you know, Zoom classes, with having to just be on your computer so much for all of your schoolwork, plus, obviously, that’s your only social interaction. You know, just also in the midst of the pandemic, mental health being what it is, things were a little bit more dicey for a lot of people. Definitely have seen a substantial increase arguably attributable to the pandemic. And unfortunately, even now, as things are, some places are returning a little bit to normal. We’re still seeing this increased level of cries for help. So, we think this is something that’s going to be with us for quite some time. 

[00:05:55] Interesting point that you brought up. You know, bullying has existed for a long time, whether it’s at school, on the playground or at home with the internet more accessible due to remote learning, and the variety of digital devices, you know, tablets go home, Chromebook that go home, on school devices, even. What are some effects of cyberbullying can have on a victim or even the bully? 

[00:06:17] There are some pretty severe side effects. Obviously, bullying makes people upset. It can make children feel lonely, unhappy and frightened. It can make them feel unsafe and think that there must be something wrong with them which can internalize in some pretty nasty ways. Children can lose confidence and may not want to go to school anymore, might even make them sick. Some people think that bullying is just, you know, part of growing up in a way for young people to learn to stick up for themselves. But bullying kind of long term physical and psychological consequences, some of which might be withdrawal from family and school activities, just kind of wanting to be left alone, shyness often, and somatic symptoms like stomach aches, headaches, even panic attacks, loss of sleep, or conversely, sleeping too much but not getting restful sleep, so being exhausted, nightmares, etc. If bullying isn’t stopped, it also hurts the bystanders as well as the person who bullies others. Bystanders can be afraid they could be the next victim. Even if they feel badly for the person being bullied, they often avoid getting involved in order to protect themselves or because they’re not sure what to do. And children who learn they can get away with violence and aggression often continue to do so in adulthood. They have a statistically higher chance of getting involved in dating aggression, sexual harassment and criminal behavior, later in life. Bullying can also have an effect on learning. So, the stress and anxiety caused by this, by bullying and the harassment, can make it more difficult for kids to learn, cause difficulty in concentration, decreased their ability to focus, which affects their ability to remember what they’ve learned. And it can lead to more serious concerns, right. It’s painful and humiliating, and kids who are bullied feel embarrassed, battered and ashamed. And if that pain isn’t relieved, bullying can lead to, you know, consideration of suicide or reaching out in violent behavior. 

[00:07:55] You know, those are some serious issues that arise from cyberbullying or bullying in general. My question is BullyingCanada’s experience with intervention and, you know, help in cases like these, what can parents do? 

[00:08:09] Preventing bullying or cyber bullying, really the most effective thing parents can do is being involved, right, knowing what’s happening in their children’s life. Some of the warning signs that cyber bullying or bullying is occurring happen around a child’s use of their device or sort of how they interact with schooling. So, if you were to just kind of monitor what’s going on overall, right, we’re not saying literally read over the shoulder everything, but watch for a noticeable increase or decrease in device use or texting, right, something outside of the range of normality. If they’re exhibiting strong emotional responses to what’s happening on the device, obviously, you know, watching memes or videos or something. Laughter And, you know, a smile is fine. But if they get really angry or super upset, that’s something to be concerned with. Also, if a child hides their screen or device when others are near or avoids discussion about what they’re doing on their device or just trying to avoid school. 

[00:09:06] That’s really good tips there. What can schools be doing, administration and then teachers? Mainly because the duty of care, that goes on when the child’s received the device from a school. And a lot of those cyberbullying happens on the school devices. Obviously, there are solutions in place. For example, Netsweeper’s onGuard. But you know what, it was a strategic approach that schools, along with teachers and staff, can do to limit that as well. What are some suggestions you have to help schools achieve this? 

[00:09:37] For educators in the classroom, the tips are relatively similar to those for parents, right, because they’re around the kids all the time, you know, hours and hours a day. Just kind of being aware of what’s going on. For the administration, it’s a little bit more interesting. Obviously, they should abide by whatever laws regarding bullying are for their area but implement policies that really look for justice in these situations. So, whether that be using a product like Netsweeper to flag potentially harmful content or interactions, rather than having, strictly speaking, a zero-tolerance policy for all bullying, look at what’s happening in each situation individually and having a punishment or interaction befitting what’s going on. Often the zero tolerance policies have a detrimental effect on those being bullied rather than the bully, because bullies have long been able to figure out what to do, to how to kind of fly under the radar, if you will. Whereas when someone is being bullied, they often might lash out. And while that’s inappropriate, maybe doesn’t have the same ramifications as the bully themselves.  

So really for the administration encouraging peer involvement and prevention strategies. Understanding what resources are available to them to monitor what’s going on and understand that their duty of care doesn’t stop at the blackboard, right? They’re responsible for the whole classroom and making sure that they also develop activities that encourage self-reflection, asking children to identify and express what they think and feel, and specifically to consider the thoughts and feelings of others, helping them develop those sorts of emotional intelligence skills, the soft skills that will help them, a, navigate this sort of thing and b, really reward them going forward in the future by making them more able to navigate sort of the work environment as well. 

[00:11:30] Those are some really good suggestions. For youth who are bullied, they often feel alone because there are bystanders who do nothing to help. You know, understandably, there’s precautions for that to. Even one person’s support can make a huge difference for someone who’s target to bully by a bully, whether that be online or in person. What are some ways bystanders can take action, address and prevent bullying, and I know BullyingCanada has a lot of experience in intervention, so maybe you can highlight that, too? 

[00:11:58] So instead of ignoring a bullying incident, we encourage bystanders to tell a teacher, coach or counselor, basically get an adult involved, simply moving towards like physically being near the victim can often put a pause in the situation and kind of act as a reset. Speak up, say stop! Befriending the victim also can help because bullying is generally very isolating and helping the victim kind of get away from the situation in that in that way. Additionally, if you’re not comfortable talking to a teacher or coach, reaching out to BullyingCanada as a bystander is always an option. And we’re happy to get involved as much as we can to help remedy those situations. 

[00:12:39] BullyingCanada is about to expand its operations. What can you tell the audience about that and the resources that are there to help? 

[00:12:48] BullyingCanada is drawing on its 15 years of expertise in this to bring its mediation model of intervention outside of Canada. Bullying obviously is a problem in any society. And we have this sort of unique experience to actually help others. So, we have two main programs that we’re kind of launching outside of Canada. One is our community workshop model. And to date, we’ve done just about 5000 of these, where we go into schools or go to some community group and give workshops on intervention, on coping mechanisms and skills. We’re hoping to bring that to other communities that need it. And then additionally, our support line, currently in a capacity building the stage, to actually bring that elsewhere. We are launching two entities, one BullyingInternational and the other BullyingUSA to help bring these things outside of just Canada. Obviously, BullyingUSA is the logical next step, right? There’s so much in common between Canada and the states and having an infrastructure that can cross-border is vital to our next step of bringing it elsewhere. 

[00:13:55] James, how can people get involved? 

[00:13:58] So there’s a number of ways. If you want to get involved just in your own community, being present in your kid’s life will go a long way to being active with the school, you know, holding them accountable to have policies and procedures that actually make a difference. You can even ask reach out to BullyingCanada or BullyingUSA or BullyingInternational and ask us to come and do a community workshop there. If you’re looking to make a larger scale impact, we always have volunteer options whether you want to work with youth directly and go through our training to become one of the support line workers, or if you know that sort of triggering content isn’t your cup of tea, we have lots of administrative things that you can get involved and help out, and then finally donating. Whether to us or another organization in your community, doing this sort of work, while BullyingCanada is volunteer driven, we couldn’t do it without the things, you know, still have a hard cost involved, whether that’s the technology to operate the support line, whether it’s telecommunications, etc. There’s quite a lot of back-end cost that goes into this. So really just in one of those ways, getting involved with your time or with your, you know, treasure giving, giving a donation to whether it’s us or another organization that’s near and dear to your heart in this space. 

[00:15:16] Absolutely, some really great pointers there. My second last question, for victims, parents, bullies and educators, what are some resources BullyingCanada provides to ensure our children are safe from any type of bullying? And what are some other prevention strategies that you can tell us about that can detect warning signs and appropriate actions that should take place? 

[00:15:37] The resources we provide on our website, there’s a number of tools and strategies to combat these issues. Obviously, our support line, you can reach out to us 24/7 365, through our website, through text or by calling, and that number is 877-352-4497. Another kind of important aspect is to keep in mind some of these myths surrounding bullying, like children have got to learn to stand up for themselves. The reality is that children who get the courage to complain about being bullied are saying that they’ve tried and can’t cope with the situation on their own. So, treating their complaint as a call for help is really important to be able to offer support and to help them learn problem-solving and assertiveness while still doing that in a compassionate way to deal with difficult situations. Another that oh, it builds character. Well, the reality is that children who are bullied repeatedly have low self-esteem and don’t trust others. So bullying damages a person’s self-concept, the opposite of character building. Sort of the final one, sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you, the reality there is that scars left by name calling can last a lifetime and can often drive people into suicidal ideation. It’s not just teasing, right? These are acts of bullying or vicious taunting things and should be stopped. 

[00:16:56] James, before we wrap up, any closing thoughts, interesting fact, statistics, anything you want the audience to take away with them? 

[00:17:03] We know that this is a very pervasive issue. Physical bullying, up to about a third of students and almost three quarters experiencing cyberbullying. So, whether or not you think you have a part to play in this, you really do. Whether that’s by making sure that the resources are available in your community or that you’re being involved in, you know, your kid’s lives. You know, we all have a part to play in this one way or another, and if you’re interested in learning more or any more how to get involved, learning more, what you can do in your community, I encourage you to visit our website, BullyingCanada.ca or BullyingUSA.org, and really kind of digging in to how you can make a difference. 

[00:17:43] Thank you, James. Thank you for your time with us and some interesting stuff in the works as well, and definitely be able to catch up and let the audience know all the resources that you mentioned will be available under the description. Thank you for your time, James. Appreciate it. 

[00:17:58] Thank you so much for having us and for the work you do.