Cyberbullying: An Online Threat and the Insurance Industry’s Response


A teenage girl, face cast down and shrouded in shadow, stands before her webcam. Framed in the centre with a black-and-white filter, she holds a series of handwritten cards in her hands.

“Hello,” reads the first. “I’ve decided to tell you about my never ending story.”

In the heart-wrenching eight minute YouTube video, the teen recounts her experiences of continued harassment – online and physical – and appeals for help at the end of the video.

The 15 year-old teen is cyberbully victim, Amanda Todd, whose tragic story made headlines when, after years of vicious bullying, she committed suicide in October 2012.

Her story continues to live on as a reminder of the harm, and even potentially lethal impact, of cyberbullying and other acts of electronic aggression. The tragedy launched a dialogue across the country, and then the world, on the harms of cyberbullying, and what can be done to support victims and their families.

Adding its voice to the conversation is an ever-evolving industry that touches nearly every part of the economy and every sector of society. The insurance industry has recently been acknowledged for the support and services it may offer to those impacted by cyberbullying.

In a recent Trends Paper published by the Insurance Institute of Canada’s CIP Society, Paul Johnstone, Senior Vice President, Chubb Personal Risk Services was quoted as saying, “[One] positive to having cyberbullying coverage in the market is that it has sparked a healthy dialogue and brought awareness to the harms suffered by victims of cyberbullying.”

Bullying in a new age

The unfortunate truth is that bullying has always existed. But with the advent of new technologies, the Internet, and social media, the nature and vehicles for bullying to occur have changed drastically, and these evolutions have made its consequences exponentially more dangerous – and more deadly.

What is bullying?
“A systemic abuse of power involving unjustified and repeated acts intended to inflict physical, emotional, or social harm.”

Cyberbullying has brought harassment to new levels and an entirely new dimension. Taking place via computers, cell phones, or other electronic devices, acts of bullying are becoming insidious, and in the 21st century, are no longer limited to real world spaces. They can occur in the form of threatening or harassing messages posted online, or as embarrassing or undesirable photos of a victim spread electronically and against their will. With the ease of anonymity afforded by new technologies and the proliferation of online spaces and social channels, the possibilities for potential cyberbullying acts are virtually limitless.

Nor is cyberbullying limited to children and adolescents.  A 2014 study conducted by a US based American think tank, PEW Research Centre found that 65% of users ages 18-29 have been cyberbullied, and that more than one in three adults have experienced some form of electronic aggression or harassment in the online world.

Partly due to stories like Amanda Todd’s, bullying has emerged as a crucial subject that needs to be addressed, and certain organizations are now responding to these 21st century demands with services designed to help those affected and their families.

But what can be done to support victims of cyberbullying?

Adapting Insurance

Bullying has evolved with technological changes – and, as many are recognizing – so should the ways we protect and insure ourselves against modern threats like cyberbullying. Many Canadians now feel that these coverages and policies should adapt similarly to reflect these modern risks.

While coverage in Canada already exists to guard against dangers like home invasion, child abduction, carjacking, stalking, and other crimes, the ubiquity of smartphones and other communication technologies indicate new risks to individuals and their families. As a result, the addition of cyberbullying coverage to family protection plans has been both timely and popular with Canadian families.

The costs associated with a cyberbullying incident would be covered in instances where the victim suffers a debilitating shock or mental anguish that prevents them from attending school or work for more than a week – or in instances where the bullying leads to wrongful termination or discipline by a governing official or school.

For example, one cyberbullying policy in Canada covers up to $60,000 per incident, and is expansive – ranging from psychiatric services to public relations and reputation management.

Having such coverage is significant, as it means victims and their families can afford to act quickly in times of need.

The following examples demonstrate the potential impact these policies could have on some possible scenarios: a teen girl being cyberbullied and suffering depression or anxiety could meet with a psychologist or psychiatrist and may receive treatment sooner rather than be on a long wait list. A young professional experiencing online harassment could consult with an online reputation management organization to address and mitigate the damages. A university student who had to temporarily pause their studies or relocate to receive treatment could be compensated for the associated costs.

Potential expenses covered by cyberbullying policies
• Psychiatric services
• Costs for treatment, rest and recuperation
• Salary due to wrongful termination
• Temporary relocation expenses
• Costs for temporary private tutoring or school expenses
• Public relations and reputation management expenses
• Costs for professional and cyber security professionals

Including cyberbullying in insurance products reflects a commendable and emerging trend in an industry that continually sees its clients as people.
The Insurance industry recognizes that the threat of cyberbullying is unfortunate but pervasive, and consumers need coverage that acknowledges its risks. If you are interested in learning more, check out this Trends Paper published by the Insurance Institute on Cyberbullying.

In addition to topics like cyberbullying, the industry is at the forefront of game-changing issues like big data, autonomous cars, climate change, cyber security and other national and global risks. Trends like these and others that are evolving the insurance industry are great examples of the variety and complexity of potential career opportunities that can arise from this growing sector.

Want to learn more about a career in Insurance? For more information on how to get started, check out Career Connections’ Employer Page!