Friday, January 31, 2014

Whack-a-Mole Tactics to #StopCyberbullying

You wouldn't begin a business without a business plan, would you? (okay, some of you might, but shouldn't).
But with cybersafety, cyberbullying and cyberabuse issues, too often schools, policymakers and non-profits practice the "ready, shoot, aim" method. They want to do something, and start before they have learned enough or thought it through enough.

That wastes, time, money, volunteers and in the end hurts more than helps.

I have received thousands of emails asking about our #Stopcyberbullying Canada Youth Community Action Plan - why did we take the time to create it, how did we do it, who was involved and can others use ours. I will tell you what I tell potential privacy law clients. "It's easy to copy someone's privacy policy online, but if it doesn't fit your practices, and procedures and values, you're worse off than with nothing."

To build a good business plan, or strategic plan for cyberbullying, you start with a review of the field. Who else is out there? what are they doing? can you improve on their offerings? Can you collaborate to avoid reinventing the wheel? where is your strength? your weakness? are there special opportunities? Special risks? what's your perspective? how does it add to the mix?

You look at everything you can find to see what others have done. A thorough Internet search will help pull up templates, recommended plans and ideas. But don't copy them. Learn from them. Are they created form the governmental perspective? if so, is it an educational institution approach, legal or mental health approach? or something else. How does the culture of the jurisdiction from where it was written compare to yours? Are you looking for a more formal structure? more community structure? kids, parents or professionals?

Start from your strengths. We have been doing cyberbullying prevention and triage work since 1995, before it had a name. I am a lawyer and sit on Facebook's international safety advisory board, MTV's a think line advisory board, developed the cybersafety program for the Girl Scouts, the digital dating abuse program for Liz Claiborne Foundation and have advised the UN and UNESCO, among others. I approach things form the community perspective, using volunteers to deliver our programs and expert volunteers to help guide them. We look at things form a policy and legal perspective and work within the industry to help implement best practices. we also rely heavily on youth as both experts and distribution agents.

Your group may be different.

What's your budget and funding sources? even with using volunteers, travel, phones and programs have out of pocket costs. How are you going to handle those? It would be horrible to have a promising program stopped dead in the water because you couldn't afford a necessary expense.

Are you going it alone or using partners? (if alone, expect a larger budget!) local or national or international in scope? how will you manage communications? social media feeds and pr? legal niceities? branding?

what's your credibility factor? are you well known in the field? a newcomer with good credentials? have transferable skills/expertise? starting fresh because you care? if you are realistic, these can all work as long as your know your stuff.

then plan, brainstorm, discuss, argue and improve. run it by others you trust. run it by others you admire. then, scale it back a little. Better to under-promise and over-deliver. set priorities. make the first ones easier to show traction. do what you do best first. and build a network of others to help when you need it. you will need it.

post your plan online and get feedback. share it among friends and family and get feedback. make it measurable and meaningful. explain why you, why now and how you are different.

then, hold your nose and jump! Use your plan as your roadmap when you get lost, confused or off-track. if you did it right, it will help. if it's not helping do it again, better this time.

good luck!

Almost 5000 surveyed said they wanted to help stop cyberbullying, but didn't know what to do!

in our 17,800 respondent stop cyberbullying survey conducted on Facebook for our Don;t Stand by Stand Up! campaign, over 15,000 said they wanted to help stop cyberbullying. Out of those 15,000, almost 5000 said they didn't know how. survey results 
StopCyberbullying will be helping people who want to address cyberbullying learn what they can do to help. From teaching them how to spot it, where to report it and how to help victims, we are building our stopcyberbullying task force of caring volunteers. Want to sign up and help us help others? visit or

Thursday, January 30, 2014

the StopCyberbullying Ecosystem

We've been doing this a long time. "this" is helping victims of cyberbullying, cyberharassment and cyberstalking, as well as victims of online sexual exploitation. We work helping young people, their families and adults. We work with schools, policymakers, police, judges, lawyers, elected officials, industry, mental health and healthcare professionals, researchers, kids, university students, community organizations, media and more.

And each has a special role to play when it comes to addressing cyberbullying. We call this the #Stopcyberbullying ecosystem. Unless we can address cyberbullying in a 360 degree holistic way, we won't address it at all. Anything else is playing whack-a-mole.

It's not easy to engage everyone. But until we do, we are wasting our time and allowing young people to be hurt in serious ways.

The first step to addressing the issues is determining who needs to be at the table. The second is trying to find ways to engage them using trusted influencers, the right communication methods and language and finding a common ground. That's why we use educators to engage educators, principals to engage principals, librarians to engage librarians, lawyer for lawyers, police for police, etc. The ones we choose to help us lead this forward are educators, librarians, police, etc that can see things more broadly, are not caught up in jargon and can park their egos at the door. They also have to be extremely experienced, knowledgeable and good at expressing their perspectives.

The biggest challenge is not engaging the students, or the parents or even those who are using digital technology as a weapon to hurt their peers. The biggest challenge is in breaking down silos, where our professionals work in isolated groups, doing what they have always done and never thinking outside of that silo's box.

We all suffer from this mindset. And the longer we have been recognized as "experts" the harder it is to see things with a fresh lens. But, by working with the kids directly, we are forced to think outside of our boxes, forced to see things that we hadn't before noticed, forced to explain our tried and true methods and forced to look harder and work in more enlightened ways.

A psycho-therapist who is part of our leadership group met with the students today to help them understand how to listen better and understand how to help victims of cyberbullying who come to them for help. He shared with me that these students were inspiring. They are refreshing, reviving and will change the world. But they need our expertise, experience and help to do it. Got a skill? Got heart? Got hope? Then we all need you too!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

StopCyberbullying Canada Action Plan Brainstorming. This is where we started to get to our cyberbullying action items. Whew!!!!

1. Inventory existing services from government for victims and create communications to better inform the public of their existence 
2. Parents need to be taught to identify cyberbullying and what to do to help their children address it 
3. Inventory what schools are doing to combat bullying, create digital literacy and handle cyberbullying/sexting 
4. Create sexting protocols for schools 
5. Survey students to see how pervasive the problem is, in each province
6. Create programs that build on what exists and is working
7. Find local, regional and national sponsors 
8. Host a youth conference in each province and in more than one region in large provinces 
9. Source funding opportunities 
10. Design and create 
11. Create a Canadian StopCyberbullying Toolkit 
12. Arrange provincial events run by youth 
13. Create a youth council in each province to advise the premiers
14. Create a digital bill of rights
15. Engage in the victims’ bill of rights issue 
16. Train the trainers programs for parents, law enforcement, youth workers and students
17. Engage the industry and telecommunications/mobile carriers 
18. Approach this from a Canadian perspective with Canadian sensitivities
 19. Engage faith-based partners 
20. Host competitions and artistic events 
21. Find a trustworthy celebrity to help deliver the message 
22. Create a corps of youth journalists, researchers and videographers
 23. Produce a documentary or series of documentaries 
24. Create a StopCyberbullying day or week to encourage local events 
25. Create StopCyberbullying bookclubs 26. Correct terminology to separate adult harassment from youth bullying 27. Create and monitor a cyberbullying discussion forum 28. Create a live chat help centre 29. Build a help app 30. Publicize Alex Wonder game 31. Publicize existing resources 32. Create an approval process for other resources and programs 33. Create StopCyberbullying best practice standards and a certification program 34. Arrange volunteer mechanisms, authentications and background checks 35. Create an operating structure for SCB 36. Create leadership board protocols, descriptions and bylaws 37. Create volunteer (task force) management structure, including agreements and communications 38. Enlist experts for each stakeholder group and advisory board 39. Invite all infrastructure members 40. Students who engage in cyberbullying have to be a priority 41. Healthcare professionals need to become better informed about cyberabuse and digital norms 42. Schools, parents and students need to know what to report to the networks, how and what to expect 43. Students need to learn how to be better friends and when to turn to a trusted adult 44. Adults need to learn what it takes to be a trustworthy trusted adults 45. Certification programs should be delivered to allow school, law enforcement and support professionals to qualify as StopCyberbullying professionals 46. First responder programs for law enforcement on sexting, revenge porn and cyberbullying and harassment 47. Industry should create/adopt cyberbullying protocols and qualified providers should carry a seal of approval. 48. Digital literacy and responsible use programs should be delivered at K and pre-K levels 49. Digital hygiene programs should be adopted by all schools and home schooling programs 50. Empathy programs and self-esteem programs should work with cyberbullying programs 51. Cyberbullying needs to be recognized as different in many cases from offline bullying 52. An “appeal” user ombudsman should be created to intervene when the report abuse function does work effectively in specific cases 53. Industry members should have a hotline for law enforcement and school administrators 54. All programs should use Privacy by Design standards to not risk privacy or security of users 55. A child/family advocate position should be established nationally to help coordinate programs among all ministries and stakeholders 56. Existing victim’s support programs should be promoted and victims of cyberabuse should be able to seek help without having to press charges 57. Bullycide families should have a support network to help them deal with media demands, stress and criminal justice processes 58. Digital impersonation should be covered by existing ID and credential theft laws and policies 59. Media need ethical guidelines in covering bullycide cases 60. Mental health and cyberwellness guidelines should be established to address PTSD related to digital abuse 61. General programs should be faith-neutral (other than faith-based organizations) 62. Schools should have protocols in place to address cyberbullying of, by and among students 63. Schools should have policies and protocols in effect to address teacher-bullying/harassment by students 64. All schools should have acceptable use policies and codes of conduct with parental notice 65. Schools should have protocols on student privacy, digital security and student-supplied devices 66. No one should have to give up their privacy to access cyberbullying resources/help 67. Student alternative justice and peer counseling programs should be in place 68. Restorative justice programs should be adapted for universal application 69. Youth cyberbullying should be handled independently from adult cyberharassment 70. Create media worthy events, focusing on youth 71. Engage all premiers – create a StopCyberbullying Premier Award 72. Create ways to track progress and engagement publically, focusing on the positive 73. Host seminars and workshops, in e-learning and live formats 74. Engage police academies 75. The issue needs to be defined with a common lexicon to enable effective research and communication 76. Laws need to define the issues with precision to allow people to know what is illegal and what isn’t 77. Public education on rights, how to identify cyberbullying and laws re: sexting, sextortion and revenge porn 78. Inventory existing programs, what works and what doesn’t 79. A youth-led help/supportline accessible via text should be established and operate 24/7/365 80. Programs and resources should be in many different languages and delivered using video and different learning style formats 81. Media needs to be better informed on the subject, so create a private digital environment to address inquiries and educate them on the issue 82. Follow victims’ ethical guidelines when engaging with victims and their families 83. Create a legal team to identify and address laws and policies for Canada

Saturday, January 25, 2014

What Kinds of Laws May Apply to Cyberbullying Activities?

There are many different kinds of criminal laws and civil laws that might apply to cyberbullying activity, depending on how it is done. These include: • Criminal laws; • Constitutional and civil rights violations (depending on whether the state gives private rights of action); • School rules and regulations; • Regulatory agency regulations; • Hate laws; • Defamation; Impersonation • Illegal intrusion laws; • Terrorism laws; • Hacking-related laws; • Extortion; • Sexual exploitation laws; • Dissemination, production, or possession of obscenity or child pornography; • Privacy laws; • Theft, vandalism, and criminal trespass; • Misappropriation; and • Harassment and bullying/cyberbullying-specific laws. Depending on the jurisdiction, what written policies have been signed by the students and their parents, and whether the school is a public state school or a private non-state supported school, the school may also be able to discipline the students, expel them, or suspend them.

The Legal Elements of Cyberbullying Activities - Most Laws that Cover Cyberbullying Activities are Not Cyberbullying Laws At All.

Too often people look for the one law that fits the one crime they are dealing with. Instead, they should think about the activities that were part of that crime. When looking to see if we need a new law to address cyberbullying, try looking at the pieces of the cyberbullying itself. In law, we call these the "elements of the crime." The Legal Elements When you look at cyberbullying from the legal perspective, break it down to its elements: • Is it threatening? • Is it defamatory? • Is it targeting teachers or school administrators? (Remember this isn’t “cyberbullying” under our definition, but it is cyberharassment, given the adult’s involvement.) • Was it sent from school computers, during the school day, from a school-sanctioned event, or promoted in school? • Was it from a home computer, off-school premises, and not involving a school sanctioned event? • Has the person identified themselves? • Was it sent while posing as someone else? • Was it sent anonymously? • Was it sent only to the target or was it publicized? • What device was used? • Who owns or legally controls that device? (Such as someone’s cellphone being grabbed when they weren’t looking.) • Is it repeated? If so, how often? • Did they break into the target’s online account? • Did they have legal access to the target’s password (because it was given to them or stored on their computer)? These are already covered by laws that aren't new and aren't directed at cyberbullying. Being creative and thinking about each of the steps taken in the cyberbullying may make it easier to get help now.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Grandparents constitute 57% of cyberbullying survey respondents! Take it yourself!

to take survey yourself
As a grandmother myself, I was surprised and yet not so surprised to see the early respondents of our StopCyberbullying Canada survey were fellow grandparents. Too often cybersafety organizations forget the role of grandparents as both the purchasers of their grandchildrens' digital devices and the ones with enough time to look at the realities of digital wellness and responsible use.

We care. It's not that parents don't care. But they are busy and grappling with a thousand and one things. Grandparents have a bit more time to focus on things like values, reputation and consequences. We have been around to see the results of careless and stupid actions. We are devastated by our inability to protect our grandchildren fully in cyberspace. We understand and appreciate the pain words can cause and fight like lions to protect our young grandchildren.

The survey is only a few days old, and the respondents are increasing by the hundreds daily. But, the ones who answered first (from the US, UK and across Canada) were the grandparents.

Our programs have always been grandparent-friendly and we have always included them in the ranks of caretakers, but this tells me that grandparents have to be front and center in the new StopCyberbullying Canada action plan. We'll be adding a few new action plan items to address their needs.

Hurray! Grandparents rock! And aren't their grandchildren lucky!

Early findings on StopCyberbullying Canada's survey - what do you think we need to do to stop cyberbullying?

New stopcyberbullying early survey results. When asked what we should do to stop cyberbullying, Canadian respondents answered:

Educational programs for students.
Educational programs for parents.
Schools with more authority to address cyberbullying.
More and better laws to address cyberbullying.
Jail sentences for teens who cyberbully.
A teen helpline where teens and preteens can get help from teens when they are cyberbullied.
More filtering and monitoring software.
A service that watches everything teens and preteens do online and reports it to parents.
Better cellphone security.

100% wanted educational programs for parents and students, to give schools more authority to address
cyberbullying, more and better laws to address it and a teen helpline, where young people can help each others, and finally better cell phone security. 

75% wanted more filtering and monitoring software made available ot help in cases of cyberbullying and half wanted a service to gather information about what students are doing and report it to parents.

No one wanted to see students jailed for engaging in cyberbullying.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Before we built it out with more details, this was the working draft of the StopCyberbullying Youth Community Action Plan

The StopCyberbullying Canada Youth Community Action Plan working draft

1. Train trusted adults and stakeholders to identify, prevent, respond and support to incidents of cyberbullying and related digital abuses, including creating protocol, training and certification programs for:a. Medical and wellness professionalsb. Parents, caretakers, guardians and youth leaders organizationsc. Educatorsd. Social workers/guidance counsellors/mental health professionalse. Victim services providersf. Law Enforcement first respondersg. Policymakersh. Criminal justice professionalsi. Digital industry moderators, risk-managers and policy professionals2. Create a support program for families and friends of bullycide victims.
3. Make sure that everyone uses the same words and meanings when talking about, researching and addressing cyberbullying.
4. Encourage members of the media, documentary-makers and journalists to adopt identified ethical standards when addressing bullycide victims’ stories and their family and friends and not exploit the bullycide victims.
5. Identify and partner with community groups, regionally and nationally (Girl Guides, Scouts Canada, Red Cross, Medical Society, church youth groups, etc.).
6. Identify and create/adopt programs to address the root causes of cyberbullying and related digital abuses, including digital literacy, traditional bullying, bigotry and hate.
7. Identify and create/adopt standards to make it clear when something is and is not cyberbullying.
8. Create materials, information, resources and awareness that focus on “hurt” and not exploit bullycides.
9. Create a set of skills for young people of all ages to prevent and address cyberbullying and help support young people targeted by cyberbullying.
10. Recommend that the education departments/ministries create and implement a reporting and accountability structure for bullying/cyberbullying and violence in schools.
11. Deliver local, regional, national and international events to bring young people together with other leaders in the cyberbullying field and coordinate more youth involvement in the design, maintenance and delivery of stop cyberbullying programs.
12. Broadly communicate messaging and make all resources available at “go to” site for each special interest group.
13. Encourage digital industry involvement and broad adoption of “best practices” and implementation of a seal program to recognize those which have met these standards.
14. Identify, create/adopt legal literacy programs and inventory and assess existing laws and policies, identifying any existing gaps.
15. Identify effective peer counseling program models (for students beginning as young as 5th grade early peer counseling models) and adopt and maintain them across PEI as well as train-the-trainers for youth to enable them to run programs for their peers and adults.
16. Identify, create and advocate use of diversionary and alternative justice models as well as restorative justice models adopting the role of “elders” and being relevant to cyberbullying.
17. Design, set-up and manage an organizational structure for StopCyberbullying Canada’s youth and adult leadership, expert advisors and volunteers that uses online tools to facilitate communications.
18. Identify intervention points so that cyberbullying is identified and addressed earlier and create awareness to make sure there is “no wrong door” wherever a young person reaches out for help.
19. Create risk management models for educational institutions to address all school safety issues, including bullying and cyberbullying.
20. Create a position for a school safety/bullying/cyberbullying coordinator in each jurisdiction.
21. Create the role of a coordinator among all relevant government departments and ministries to make sure that all are working effectively across silos.
22. Research scope of problem and regional trends and make sure that the resources, programs and models reflect what is discovered.
23. Provide helplines/supportlines where young people can help their peers in cases of cyberbullying and related digital risks and deliver them using digital technologies used by young people.
24. Require that digital networks address cyberbullying and related digital risks, design report abuse systems and facilitate their use, properly screen and train their moderation team members and have an appeal process or outside user ombudsman to handle cases that have been mishandled or have fallen between the tracks.
25. Develop fundraising, sponsorships and programs to help deliver the programs and action plan items that require funding, but use unpaid grassroots volunteers, especially young people, to reduce the costs of fulfilling the plan.

The StopCyberbullying Canada Youth Community Action Plan - Mission and Values (the baseline)

It was interesting to see the young people address our mission and guiding principles/values. We asked thousands of young people on Prince Edward Island and over 50,000 from across North America, the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Central America, Australia, Ireland and otherglobal locations if they could do anything to stop cyberbullying what they would want to do, what is would look like and how they would set standards.

We had a broad list of things that jumbled together missions, values, goals, action items and guiding principles.We reviewed other cyberbullying-related action plans by governmental agencies, such as Nova Scotia's and Ireland's and looked at guidance documents on the issues from teachers' associations and leading digital literacy experts. We pulled together everything we have written, published and created for StopCyberbullying, too. That was the easy part.

Then, we built an action plan working group of young people (4th - 12 grade) from Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario, First Nation and newcomers groups, adults from across Canada representing government, education, health and wellness, innovation, law, law enforcement, the digital industry, small businesses, researchers and faith-based groups. We also involved victim's rights and assistance experts and families of the most well-known Canadian bullycides. And finally, we turned to the leading experts in the field to help weigh in and contribute to the process and planning.

With as many in the room as we could fit, we took the draft planning and, working with a local facilitator, hammered out the mission,  principles, goals and values. That took almost 2-1/2 hours to get the language right and make sure the young participants were on board. For the most part, the facilitation proceeded as it does with large corporate brainstorming and advisory boards. But with all the young people, we had to place the brainstorming sheets lower do they could reach. And we had to define words like "stakeholders," "community" and "sustainability."

In the early hours, the conversation was more vibrant and, in some cases, more heated. As we tired and the young participants' blood sugar declined (until we revived them with pizza), we all became glassy-eyed. The values, goals, principles and mission were finalized, in language the young people approved. The actual action plan, where the steps were described, was approved, but they relied on adults working on the language to formalize it.

Unfortunately, given our upcoming presentation to the Premier, that task fell on me. Notwithstanding all the well-meaning guidance to remove words such as "lexicon" and "stakeholders" I fell into the common rut that most lawyers, even those writing for consumer audiences, fall into, such as using jargon, longer phrases to say simple things and US spelling, especially when referring to best practices, standards, procedures, etc.

Once exams are over next week, the young participants have promised to rewrite it in their own words. (Although I have little faith in their spelling. :-))

Their mission, goals, values and guiding principles, in their facilitated own words appears below:

StopCyberbullying Canada’s Youth Community Action Plan

StopCyberbullying Canada’s Vision

All young people being able to use digital technology free from fear of cyberbullying, personal attacks, threats, impersonation and other forms of digital harassment.

StopCyberbullying Canada’s Mission

SCB Canada will empower youth and engage our society to identify, prevent, and address all forms of cyberbullying and digital harassment, including personal attacks, threats and impersonations.

Values and Guiding Principles

StopCyberbullying Canada will operate and collaborate consistently with the follow values and guiding principles. StopCyberbullying Canada and its programs and partners will, or will be:

Collaborative – providing multi-stakeholder engagement, using subject matter experts, relevant NGOs, industry members, media, health and wellness, educational institution, faith-based and governmental agencies and grassroots community delivery.

Build on Existing Strengths – whenever possible, avoiding reinvention of the wheel, by using existing programs and protocols that meet our standards and effectively address related and common issues.

Innovative – whenever possible, using innovative approaches and the power of digital technology to address the issues, identify new solutions and more broadly distribute the messaging and programs, while not ignoring those without or with limited digital access.

Inclusive – ensuring that all relevant diversity groups feel welcomed, are included in the process and their needs considered, including, but not limited to those part of First Nation, multicultural, religious, national origin, ethnics, gender, special needs, lower-income, sexual preference and newcomer groups.

Positive – while focusing on the problems and negative impact of cyberbullying and digital harassment  is inevitable, whenever possible, we must emphasize the positive actions of ourselves and others in addressing our mission as well as the benefits of digital technologies.

Sustainable – capable of self-sustainability through cause-based business models within 4 years

Youth-Led and Approved – young people (8-18) in Canada should be actively involved at all stages and develop, guide or approve all programs and approaches.

Universal – programs and resources must be relevant across all of Canada as well as regionally and address the mission in a holistic way using, when applicable, all popular technology formats and be applicable to the broad range of social media, digital communications tools, MMOG and user-generated-content platforms where the bulk of cyberbullying is conducted.

Relevant – guided by identified and realistic needs assessments with reasonable measurable goals, using best practice and using both formal as well as “in-the-trenches” evidence-based standards.

Non-Judgmental – while addressing the problems, technology and those engaging in cyberbullying behavior should not be marginalized or pre-judged.

Accessible – whenever possible, programs, tools and resources should be easy to understand and deliver at the grass-roots level as well as for professionals, available in English, French, Chinese, Spanish, Farsi, Arabic and other languages relevant to our society, as well as being digitally-accessible for special needs audiences, provided without charge or at reasonable cost, with lower bandwidth and offline options as well as e-learning.

Respectful – consistent with existing laws, civil and human rights and freedom of speech standards for Canada.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The StopCyberbullying Canada Youth Community Action Plan - step one, define the problem.

The StopCyberbullying Canada Youth Community Action Plan is the first of its kind. It addresses the issue from a community, not government perspective. It also approaches the issues through the lens of young people from 8 - 18. We are not new players in this field. We have 19 years of experience in the cyberbullying victims' assistance field and advising governments, the United Nations, educational institutions and policymakers,being one of the leading voices in the field and in the media and training law enforcement to address these issues. While we learn more about this everyday and have seen the evolution of mean communications posted in discussion forums to multi-device, platforms and innovative methods of using digital technology as a weapon among young people. Yet, in all these years, the underlying issues have not changed. We took all of our experience and, working with young people in Canada as well as subject matter experts from Canada and around the world, and created an action plan working group. The group has worked since the International StopCyberbullying Summit in November to pull together its findings and its ideas to help launch a nationwide, all-volunteer community action plan designed to be led by youth with the help and under the guidance of experts from all stakeholder groups.

We started with what we know:

Cyberbullying needs to be better defined. And everyone needs to use the same definitions. Unfortunately, they don't."Cyberbullying" is too often defined by the eye of the beholder. There is no cross-stakeholder-accepted "Cyberbullying Lexicon." As used, "cyberbullying" either is so broadly defined that it becomes meaningless or so narrowly defined that it fails to capture the real damage cyberbullying can cause.

It was the first recommendation we made.

Why this this a problem we need to address and why do we start here? 

  • Each young person defines it differently. This means that some don't realize when they are cyberbullied  (instead considering it the cost of being online, or digital drama) and some don't know when they are cyberbullying others. It also means that their friends may or may not recognize what happened as "cyberbullying."
  • Each researcher defines it differently. That means that too many research findings are entirely dependent on the definition of the respondent or of the person asking the questions. This puts many studies into question.
  • Each parent defines it differently. That means that they may over-react to lower levels of cyberbullying and under-react to more critical levels of cyberbullying.
  • Most laws define cyberbullying differently. This means that the laws cover more or less than they should.
  • Many law enforcement first responders define it differently. That means that each case of cyberbullying is handled differently depending on how that particular law enforcement officer defines it.
  • Internet, app providers and digital and social networks define it differently. That means what is acceptable on one network may not be on another.
  • Even when digital industry networks define cyberbullying similarly, their moderation and abuse-management team members often define it differently. This means that all cases of cyberbullying are are dependent on which staffer is on duty when the report is received.
  • Many cultures, worldwide, and many vulnerable groups define cyberbullying differently. That means what might be acceptable to the person "cyberbullying" another, isn't to the recipient. 
  • Some refer to all cyberharassment actions of all ages as "cyberbullying." That means that we are failing to distinguish the difference between protecting youth and protecting adults, who may be better able to handle more issues on their own. "Cyberbullying" needs to be limited as a term referring to minors. "Cyberharassment" is for adults. 
  • Each school often defines it differently, depending on the opinion of the school administration, a particular teacher or the guidance team. That means that one student in the same or neighboring school maybe disciplined for the same actions taken  by another student who wasn't. It means that one students in the same or neighboring school may receive help for a cyberbullying incident while the other doesn't.
  • Many offline bullying experts define "cyberbullying" as just another medium for offline bullying. That means that they don't understand the 50% of the incidents that have different motives, do not involve a traditional imbalance of power and often have the typical offline targets the role of a cyberbully because they can.
  • Too often, experts define "cyberbullying" as requiring multiple attacks. This means that online death threats, or one posting of a extortion threat or revenge porn image wouldn't qualify as "cyberbullying." We need to recognize that repeated lower level of harassments qualify as well as one instance of serious harassment.
  • In-game cyberbullying is often defined as "griefing," and has a lower level of priority with many in the cyberbullying space. That means that we may be seeing "cyberbullying" mistakenly as a female problem, with female targets, instead of a problem affecting both genders as both cyberbullies and targets and allowing, unlike most offline bullying, cross-gender targeting.
  • The new approach seems to define sexting (where people take nude images of themselves or capture images of sexual activity) as cyberbullying. This means that we too often avoid recognizing when young people forward these images to share a nude or sexual image of their peers, just as a nude or sexual image, and when they do it to embarrass or ruin the reputation of the young person in that image (which is cyberbullying, or specifically "sextbullying"). 
  • There are disagreements whether "inadvertent cyberbullying" or "accidental cyberbullying" when the person considered the cyberbully didn't intend to hurt the other(s), but were making a bad joke, left out a crucial word ("you are not fat") or mis-communicated or misdirected the message to the wrong person.
  • Some types of actions, such as misusing someone's password, spying on their target using digital tools, impersonating another young person online, taking control of their device(s) to send mean messages under the target's name or hacking another's game account to destroy their reputation on the game network or vandalize their points, awards and avatars, are defined differently. That means that different methods of using digital technology as a weapon to hurt someone else result in different support, help and appreciation than others.
  • Some define certain digital dating abuse incidents as "cyberbullying." That means that potentially violent and sexually violent relationships and interactions may be lumped together with those involving only verbal attacks.
  • Some experts disagree on whether active bystander actions, such as clicking "like," sharing cyberbullying posts by others or favoriting a cyberbullying tweet is considered "cyberbullying."
  • Even among those in the field, the lack of agreement over the terms "bully", "bullying", "target" and "victim" results in discussions that breakdown before they start.
Sounds like an easy thing to fix. Unfortunately, it isn't. Some offline bullying experts are invested in making cyberbullying entirely the same as offline bullying, but using digital methods. Too many researchers have been asking the wrong questions that puts some research into question. Industry members juggle having one global policy to manage worldwide values and sensitivities. Many moderation and abuse management team members at social media networks have not been trained and are not supervised properly. And there are too many people who have no idea where to start.

Professional development, training and certification programs for educators, law enforcement, health and mental wellness professionals and others are expensive, bogged down with the same lexicon issues and take time. Policies are often copied, without thinking, from other websites, networks or organizations. Only a handful of experts really understand how this works. We operate in silos too often. We don't cross-fertilize ideas or share our findings. We too often speak from our own perspective, without recognizing how many perspectives there are in cyberbullying. Educators see it as an educational issue. Law enforcement see it as either none of their business or a crime. Policymakers sometimes see it as a political issue or way to gain media attention. The Internet and digital network industry understands how important this is, but fear that doing too much might lead to liability if they don't do it enough or perfectly. And lawyers are lawyers. :-)

The extent of bullycide media coverage doesn't help. Too many young people fear that all cyberbullying can lead to death. They need to know how rare the bullycides are and how to identify vulnerability among their peers. And parents need to appreciate the hurt that all cyberbullying causes, even when it doesn't result in bullycide. And the bullycide victims and their families are too often exploited in the process. 

Some think that "cyberbullying" is so new they can't do anything about it. Unfortunately for all the years WiredSafety spent help victims of cyberbullying, most people didn't know it existed. Cyberbullying has been around since the early days of the Internet, from 1995 when the first online victim came to us for help. I wrote about it in my first book for parents on cybersafety written in 1996. It's not new. It's just growing and impacting all young people as friends, cyberbullies, bystanders, media consumers and/or targets. And the focus on the tragic bullycide cases has raised its profile.

The time to address it is yesterday. That said, we can start today, right this moment, to gain and share awareness, talk with our children, our youth charges and our young loved ones and learn how to be an effective "trusted adult." To be able to do that, we have to know "cyberbullying" when we see it, and be able to tell it apart from mean or rude comments, actions and communications online that don't rise to the level of "cyberbullying."

Let's start there.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Parry's Listening Tour on Cyberbullying, Cybercrime and What We Really Need

About a year ago Jacqueline Beauchere, now Chief Internet Safety Officer at Microsoft, called me. She was just taking over this new role, the first for Microsoft. I have known Jacqueline for many years. She is a lawyer, with lots of integrity, passion and an open mind. I have always respected her and welcomed her guidance. Because of her special way to bringing ppl and groups together, we gave her our highest award at an event hosted at the US Senate by teens and preteens I train.

"I'm conducting a "listening tour," she told me. "As I move into this position, I want to talk to all of the stakeholders and innovators in the field. I need to know what they think, need and get pointers on where we should focus our attention." I admired her doing that and welcomed her questions. As often as we had talked about these issues and spoken on each others panels, we talked for almost two hours. We were honest and talked about those I think are real and those I thought were merely copying others' ideas or in it for the money. We talked about what we were seeing and what had been done well or badly. We talked about how we have to stop reinventing the wheel and work better together. It helped me understand more and I think helped Jacqueline too.

Two months ago we hosted an enormous event on Prince Edward Island, Canada, attended by Jacqueline and Kim Sanchez from Microsoft and Facebook, Linked-In and Google as well. Hundreds of students and adults attended and many more joined via webcast. Dr. Phil and the Premiers of BC, Ontario and Nova Scotia all sent videos to support the event. The PEI Premier attended and spoke with the students for almost 25 minutes. Leading experts from the US and even Japanese national television joined us, along with all major media networks in Canada. NBC and CNN and several US newspapers covered the event and work leading up to it.

Ten days later we were invited by the Canadian Prime Minister to attend the announcement of the new cyberbullying bill before Parliament. Following that event, we traveled back to Palo Alto to meet with Instagram and Facebook leaders, flew back to NY to meet with industry and government policy leaders there and visited several other countries to update them on our upcoming strategies and our goals.

Now, back in Prince Edward Island, we are starting the cyberbullying, cybercrime, cyberwellness and sexting/sextortion listening tour of our own. We will be appointing two leadership councils, one of adult stakeholder leaders and another for youth leaders. Each Leadership Council will oversee a large task force of like stakeholders and help lead the direction of Stop Cyberbullying, Wired Safety, Digital Living Labs and Don't Stand By, Stand Up! over 2014 and beyond.

As the home of the Canada confederation, Prince Edward Island is in some ways the best place for all of this to be housed. It is also the place where the listening tour starts, tomorrow. Lots will decided over the next few weeks, as we begin our listening tour.

Both Leadership Councils will be appointed by me from stakeholders and leaders across Canada to serve for 18 months, with the ability to be reappointed, with one exception. One member will be elected based on nominations received from host province residents, and elected to serve for one year. (I will be a non-voting member.)

There will be 24 members of each Leadership Council, two of whom will be co-chairs. One of the co-chairs of each will be male, the other female and appointed by me. These appointments will be finalized over the next two weeks. Some positions have already been filled. Some invitations are pending. These are unpaid volunteer appointments.

The stakeholders represented will include health and wellness professionals, legal scholars, law enforcement, members of the media, communications leaders, risk managers, First Nation elders and youth members, government policymakers, educators, criminal and alternative justice experts, privacy experts, safety and victims' rights advocates, special needs experts, human and civil rights experts, multi-cultural representatives, faith-based leaders, technology experts and community leaders.

In addition to the 24 individuals, industry leaders will be offered a seat on the Leadership Council (limited to five seats in total), and five individual experts from the US will be appointed as North American At-Large members. While all members will participate, only Canadian individual members will have a vote. At least six members of each will be residents from the province housing the Leadership Councils (presumed to be PEI, but to be determined within the next two weeks). At least one member shall be a resident from each province in Canada.

The task forces, youth and adult stakeholders, will not be appointed. all members will apply and be prescreened. Those meeting the qualifications and agreeing to the terms of membership will be entitled to join. This will be run as part of a Canadian NGO, housed in Prince Edward Island.

Applications and more information will be posted at and and here over the next two weeks. It's time we created a truly Canadian multi-stakeholder group of experts and youth working for a common cause.