It’s time for Canada to view bullying not as a school problem but as a national public health issue, says a University of Guelph sociologist.
Dr. Ryan Broll is a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences. He researches the well-being of children and youth who experience bullying and cyberbullying, and how adults prevent and respond to bullying.
Broll, who recently wrote a commentary on Canada’s approaches to bullying published in The Hill Times, said that bullying has been seen as a school-related problem for far too long.
But cyberbullying has challenged that idea since it can take place anywhere. The pandemic and remote learning and work made things worse, Broll said. “Our increased reliance on technology shifted the nature of bullying.”
Since the pandemic began, instances of cyberbullying have increased while physical, verbal and social forms of bullying have decreased.
A key problem is the current “patchwork of policies” on bullying across Canada, a result of continued beliefs that bullying is a school-based problem to be handled by the provinces and territories, Broll said.
As a result, throughout the last 15 years Canada has lagged behind its peers on international scorecards measuring the prevalence of bullying, recently ranking 23rd out of 33 countries evaluated by UNICEF.
“One thing that many of these other countries have in common is that their national governments have taken leadership over bullying prevention,” said Broll. “What Canada has been doing is not working well.”
With social interactions increasing for many youth, “now is an opportune time for Canada to rethink how it addresses bullying and cyberbullying,” Broll said.
Other countries have adopted national bullying prevention strategies; Canada should do the same, he said.
This includes bullying and cyberbullying surveillance, engaging with social media companies to safeguard users, and developing legislation to discourage bullying and cyberbullying, Broll suggested, citing a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
“The negative effects of bullying and cyberbullying on children and youth are well documented and persist well into adulthood,” he added. “It is time for the Canadian government to take a leading role in preventing bullying and cyberbullying.”
Broll is available for interviews.
Dr. Ryan Broll