Polls Apart

There may be times when we appear, in this blog, to be swimming very much against the tides as far as our reactions to various internet panics go. It’s important to stress that virtually none of these concerns is completely without merit, however, and indeed many pose a genuine threat to the wellbeing of our youth and their communities. But our tack is to always look at every angle to see what we’re possibly missing if we simply join the throng of raised voices.

That said, what we try to refer to as online harassment (but the media insists on labelling cyberbullying) is a genuine, bona fide issue. And it’s probably no coincidence that two recent Canadian reports reinforce the seriousness from two different yet complimentary perspectives.

In one, The Vancouver Sun reports on a recent Angus Reid survey conducted for the Mayo Clinic. Focusing on parents of children aged 10 to 17, the survey found that one in ten parents believe their children have been victimized online at some point. There was a significant gender disparity in that far more parents believed their girls (17%) had been targeted than boys (7%). They also believed older teens were more at risk in this way than tweens. A slightly scary 20 per cent of parents admitted to not monitoring their kids’ online lives at all.

While warning about the genuine developmental and mental health risks of online victimization, the article reiterates the usual steps parents can take to help their children negotiate these often rough waters:

  • Teach safe practices at home
  • Instruct kids on social media etiquette
  • Pay attention to privacy and security issues
  • Continue an open, honest dialogue

And in the Ispos Reid poll conducted for Global News, an incredible 88 per cent of Canadians are worried about youth bullying in general. Somewhat oddly, it appears more childless Canadians are “very concerned” about bullying (52%) than are parents (49%). These are the highest numbers recorded by an Ipsos Reid poll to date, and the organization’s president, John Wright, believes cyberbullying is behind this surge in the numbers, with the media paying increased attention in the wake of tragedies, such as the January, 2011 suicide of 15-year-old Jenna Bowers-Bryanton in Nova Scotia, which itself was followed by the suicides of two other girls in that province.

Another interesting aspect is the regional spread: Saskatchewan and Manitoba had the highest levels of concern, while Alberta had the least.

All well worth paying continued attention to. Which we will do.