Ca.pture youth in action. Mozilla Hive Toronto, 2017 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Nearly one in every five young Canadians – about 1.1 million people – was a victim of online bullying in 2014. Girls and LGBTQ youth are more likely to experience cyberbullying but it’s a risk for all students, and it impacts the well-being and mental health of anyone affected.

Just like with bullying in the schoolyard, educators are closely involved in combating cyberbullying too. But approaches developed by adults are not always effective.

For example, in some systems, educators are required to tell parents about any bullying their child reports, which can discourage victims from coming forward.

That’s why Hive Toronto’s Ca.pture Project proposed a different approach: reverse the roles and give youth the chance to tell educators about their experiences with cyber violence, and to propose solutions for how to stop it.

Ca.pture recruited a youth council: 12 teens aged 13-17 from the Toronto area who would lead and co-design the project led by YWCA Toronto, Youth Empowering Parents and Mozilla, with support from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority Community Investment Program.

Over the course of a year, the Ca.pture youth council members were trained in facilitation, storytelling and basic coding. The young leaders then designed and ran workshops for their peers and educators, to share perspectives on cyberbullying, safe spaces and social change.

“In every other program I’ve seen, young people don’t actually have a lot of say about how their schools or educators deal with cyber violence,” said Simona Ramkisson of the Mozilla Foundation. “We wanted to make a space where youth could have the ear of people who actually taught in their schools, and also legitimize a pathway for educators to learn from youth in their classrooms.”

“Despite the process being difficult, it was helpful to be in a safe space with other members who have experienced the same scope of traumatic events,” says now 18-year old youth council member Erum Hasan. “It felt reassuring knowing that the work we are doing is promising positive results.”

The results were indeed promising: every educator and community partner who attended the Youth Council’s workshop adopted the curriculum and organized more workshops in their own schools.

Ramkisson has this piece of advice for anyone thinking of designing a similar initiative: “Build it with the pathway for young people to be at the table, as co-designers and advisers… They can be their own greatest advocates.”

Further reading:

Ca.pture Facilitation Guide, Mozilla Hive Toronto, 2017
Cyberbullying and cyberstalking among Internet users aged 15 to 29, Statistics Canada, 2016
Young Canadians’ Experiences with Electronic Bullying, Media Smarts, 2015