FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PREVNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network) is pleased that the federal government is taking a role in leading bullying prevention across the country with the funding of the Canadian Red Cross Stand Up to Bullying and Discrimination in Canadian Communities project. PREVNet is recognized as Canada's authority on research and resources for bullying prevention. The Canadian Red Cross, a PREVNet partner, will receive $250,000 to train 2,400 facilitators, aged 13 to 17, to deliver prevention workshops across the country. Youth forums will also be held in three provinces.
“The Canadian Red Cross has decades of experience and is well suited to deliver this program,” says Dr. Wendy Craig, Scientific Co-Director of PREVNet and Professor of Psychology at Queen’s University. “In addition, the Red Cross was one of three PREVNet partners involved in developing the evidence-based Healthy Relationships Training Module, so they have a solid foundation to train the young people who will deliver the bullying prevention workshops and activities.”
PREVNet also recognizes that some youth will need more than a peer-based prevention program and that vulnerable young people need adult support. Adults must be engaged in the bullying prevention discussion as much as their children. Adults need to actively support children involved in bullying, as well as model appropriate behaviour, learn about their children’s social media use and extend the bullying prevention conversation to community organizations that involve youth. Adults involved in education and organizations that serve youth require evidence-based training and tools to support bullying prevention initiatives so that they learn to recognize when bullying is occurring and know the steps to take to stop the victimization both online and offline.
It is also important that bullying prevention programs be evaluated to ensure they are effective. Research shows that 15% of programs actually have negative effects and bullying gets worse. The PREVNet website www.prevnet.ca and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Canadian Best Practices Portal at http://cbpp-pcpe.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ are good resources for finding effective, evidence-based bullying prevention programs.
Call for a National Bullying Prevention Strategy
The Canadian Red Cross program is an important first step in the ongoing effort to prevent bullying across the country, but a systemic approach with a co-ordinated National Bullying Prevention Strategy is required that involves youth, adults, youth serving organizations, and communities . It must be developed with input from all jurisdictions, sharing best practises across provinces and territories and reaching all Canadians involved with children and youth. A national strategy is needed because almost ¾ of Canadian youth report involvement in bullying at any given time. In fact, in a recent UNICEF report, Canada ranked in the bottom third among developed countries on rates of bullying and victimization among our children and youth.
The effects of bullying, cyberbullying and peer victimization are devastating to Canadian children. Four decades of research point to serious negative physical, mental, social and academic consequences of bullying. It is important to note that these negative outcomes affect to some degree all children involved in bullying: the children who are bullied, those who bully others, and those who witness it. Over time, and well into adulthood, involvement in bullying can lead to mental illness, physical health problems, violence in intimate relationships, child abuse, lost relationships, lost economic opportunities, and involvement in crime. Bullying and the violence it fosters cost us greatly and erode the prosperity of Canadian society.
Bullying is a community problem and it undermines relations wherever it occurs. Countries that have been successful at reducing bullying have one thing in common: a national strategy to address bullying. Canada must take action on this pressing challenge and the time to act is now. We need to make our children feel safe everywhere they live, learn, work and play, including on the Internet. We can do this through an immediate commitment to ongoing collective action through a comprehensive national strategy.
Jurisdictions at the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal levels must work collaboratively and in synchrony with education and youth-serving organizations to develop the National Bullying Prevention Strategy. This strategy must involve public health and crime prevention approaches with the following objectives:
• Make Canadians more knowledgeable about bullying: Create public education campaigns to equip and empower children and youth, parents, and all adults to reduce bullying and victimization both online and offline by providing evidence based strategies to address it and by promoting relationship skills to prevent it. These include enhancing emotional and digital literacy to recognize harmful behaviors and the evidence-based knowledge, skills, and support needed to take action to prevent the known negative consequences.
• Change Canadians’ attitudes and behaviour related to bullying: As we have learned from other successful public health campaigns such as targeting smoking cessation and impaired driving, it is possible to make significant changes in attitudes and behaviours. Canada needs a similar public health campaign for bullying so that bullying becomes unacceptable to all Canadians, young and old and engages them in actively preventing and intervening. Ongoing monitoring is necessary to evaluate its success.
• Give Canadians access to programs and resources: Invest in, promote and disseminate evidence-based prevention and intervention programs across the country, including rural and remote communities. Bullying prevention strategies implemented in countries that do well in the UNICEF report provide strong evidence that both early and sustained efforts that engage adults, as well as children and youth, are needed to stop bullying.
• Make Canada a global leader in bullying prevention: Invest in research to answer important questions to increase our understanding and to disseminate evidence based education, information and programs to close gaps between knowledge and action.
All Canadian children and youth from coast-to-coast-to-coast have the right to be safe in their homes, at school, in their communities, and online. Investing in bullying prevention today will lead to a healthier and more productive society for all Canadians. A comprehensive National Bullying Prevention Strategy is needed now.