Cyberbullying, defined by the RCMP as the “use of communication technology…to repeatedly intimidate or harass others” , has been increasing. In Canadian studies, 5% to 30% of adults have experienced incidents of cyberbullying [2, 3]. Among gay and bisexual Canadians, the rate is at least twice as high . Gay and bisexual people face social stigma related to their sexual minority status , which includes forms of hate speech and other verbal aggressions that are perpetrated online.
Most research on cyberbullying has been conducted in the school environment, with a need to better understand cyberbullying in adults. The Community-Based Research Centre is a Canadian-based organization promoting the health of gay men and has recently conducted a study that explores the impacts of cyberbullying on adult gay and bisexual men in Canada.
Summary of Research
Quantitative data from 7,430 respondents in the Sex Now 2014-15 survey, Canada’s largest survey of GBT2Q men’s health, was analyzed to determine the impacts of cyberbullying.
Respondents reported greater levels of worry about encountering antigay prejudice or discrimination in a variety of settings and had greater odds of being a victim of cyberbullying. This suggests that cyberbullying is not an isolated phenomenon for gay and bisexual men, but rather operates alongside—and possibly exacerbates—fears about discrimination in other settings.
Historical and systematic discrimination and oppression based on intersecting social positions may expose some sub-groups of gay and bisexual men to further cyberbullying. For example, we found higher rates of cyberbullying victimization among Aboriginal people and those with lower socioeconomic status. This is a reminder that strategies to address cyberbullying need to examine how multiple forms of social disadvantage operate together to affect those targeted by cyberbullies.
Other negative health implications of cyberbullying for gay and bisexual men include higher odds of suicidality, intimate partner violence, and experiencing antigay discrimination in offline settings.
Implications for Practice
In the absence of guidelines on how to handle incidents of adult cyberbullying, healthcare providers can begin with adapting suggested practices for youth. Some possible strategies include screening clients for potential experiences of cyberbullying, validating and affirming these experiences, and advocating for the client . Practitioners should be attuned to experiences of cyberbullying among gay and bisexual men of all ages.
Potential symptoms of cyberbullying, include experiencing suicidal thoughts, intimate partner violence, antigay discrimination, and fear for antigay prejudice. Health care providers can start raising awareness of cyberbullying by asking clients about experiences of online harassment and discrimination. They can also suggest that screening procedures include questions on cyberbullying or at the very least, instruct providers to consider cyberbullying.
For Further Information
- Lam S, Ferlatte O, Salway T. 2019. Cyberbullying and health: A preliminary investigation of the experiences of Canadian gay and bisexual adult men. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 1-26.
- PREVNet. 2019. Legal Consequences of Cyberbullying. Retrieved from https://www.prevnet.ca/bullying/cyber-bullying/legal-consequences
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Bullying and Cyberbullying. Retrieved from http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cycp-cpcj/bull-inti/index-eng.htm
- Kim S, Boyle MH, Georgiades K. 2018. Cyberbullying victimization and its association with health across the life course: A Canadian population study. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 108(5–6), e468–e474. doi:10.17269/CJPH.108.6175
- Mishna F, Regehr C, Lacombe-Duncan A, Daciuk J, Fearing G, Van Wert M. 2018. Social media, cyber-aggression and student mental health on a university campus. Journal of Mental Health, 27(3), 222–229. doi:10.1080/09638237.2018.1437607
- Hango, D. 2016. Insights on Canadian society cyberbullying and cyberstalking among internet users aged 15 to 29 in Canada. Ottawa, ON. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2016001/article/14693-eng.htm
- Vaillancourt T, Faris R, Mishna F. 2016. Cyberbullying in Children and Youth: Implications for Health and Clinical Practice. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry,62(6), 368-373. doi:10.1177/0706743716684791
I would like to thank Travis Salway and Olivier Ferlatte for his extensive help with the research study, as well as the Investigaytors, Rick Marchand, and Terry Trussler for their support. Thank you to the Vancouver Foundation for supporting Sex Now and the Public Health Agency of Canada for supporting the Investigaytors program.