Coding to Combat Cyber-Bullying

This project is supported by a grant from CIRA’s Community Investment Program. CIRA’s Community Investment Program gives back by supporting initiatives and programs that help build a better online Canada.

Mozilla’s Youth-Led March Break Camp was designed by youth for youth. Youth from the Ca.pture Youth Council, along with facilitators from YWCA Toronto, YEP and Hive Toronto collaborated and developed the structure and curriculum for the camp. The goal was to have the youth create space, provide resources and teach basic coding skills and empower their peers through story-telling, group discussions and dialogue.


Together with YEP, YWCA Toronto and the Youth Council, we reached out to community members – both leaders in the field as well as youth in the GTA. We were excited to bring 20+ youth from different communities from across Toronto to the camp ranging from ages 12 – 17, interested in learning how to code for social change.

Camp Day 1 | March 15th, 2017

We started first day of camp with ice-breaker games led by youth facilitators (camp counsellors), giving everybody a chance to get to know each other. Next we moved into creating safe space and generated a safe word together. A safe word can be a single word or phrase that is uncommonly said in everyday dialogue. It is used when an individual is experiencing a triggered moment or a reaction to the current conversation that results in discomfort, affecting one’s mental and possibly physical health. The safe word allows one to let others know in the group that they need a moment to themselves, or with a facilitator if requested, and a time-out from the conversation and settings. We discussed the importance of building a space together that will help us create dialogue dealing with sensitive issues and triggered memories from cyberbullying. Together we learnt how we can respect, care and listen to each other.

What I think is a safe space, is a place where you go and you are not judged for who you are.”, Youth

Alex and Tia, youth facilitators, leading a safe space and safe word discussion and exercise.

Youth facilitators continued to lead conversations about “What is Cyberbullying” with the activity, “Four-Corners”. Using a list generated by youth from previous co-design sessions, camp counsellors would read out a definition and ask learners to pick a corner – choices were: agree, disagree, neutral and unsure. Each person from a “corner” were asked to communicate their choice – why and how they got there. This exercise provided an in-depth look into how young people identify with many common statements about cyberbullying and their thinking process in arriving at an opinion on the topic. An interesting discussion was raised by youth who were either on opposing sides or who were unsure and seemingly able to debate both. In addition, youth were able to switch “corners” after hearing their peers’ argument, many chose to do so. This shows that the cyberbullying discourse is often confusing, conflicting and fluid, and that youth need to be a part of the conversation not only with adults but with each other.

From this activity we moved into building our stories together as a group. The youth facilitators talked the campers through how to describe their stories, what tools they found helpful and how to approach the subject. Questions to answer were put forward – Where did it happen? What happened? What did you wish happened differently? What do you want to tell parents / educators?

It was inspiring to see youth think about the questions, create meaningful dialogue, begin to share their stories and how to apply descriptive language to a memory. Many youth found it difficult to describe their stories and were shy to share with others. Time is also needed to allow a person to process and create confidence in sharing a sensitive, often traumatic experience. In response to that, an exercise book was created to allow campers to take home and work through on their storytelling while linking it up to the coding elements they were about to tackle on the second day.

Camp Day 2 | March 16th, 2017  

Youth facilitators started off with a re-cap on safe space, safe word, self care and our collective cyber-bullying definition, followed by some exercises to help create a relaxed and comfortable environment with the chance to learn more about each other. Day 2 was designed to be an intensive day of coding on Thimble, led by Mozilla staff in collaboration with the camp counsellors. It was a busy day filled with the buzzing excitement of coding. All youth facilitators were on their toes, moving around, answering any questions, helping each camper with their Thimbles and supporting their personal narratives of cyber-bullying.

Michael and Aïssata leading the “What is cyberbullying” dialogue with activity – “Four-Corners”.


Camp Day 3 | March 17th, 2017

The morning started off with youth wrapping up their Thimbles followed by a gallery walk, allowing everybody to take the time to read each other stories. It was great to witness the responses, the conversations, the relatability and the connection youth had with their peers’ stories, showing how powerful it can be to hear and share experiences from the community.

A final check in with the campers, led by youth facilitators, allowed us to understand how the campers felt about the Ca.pture program, coding and to give space for further dialogue on cyber-bullying.

“I learned more about cyberbullying and I learned that there’s always someone there to help.”, Youth

Final day’s “Gallery Walk” – youth walking around and reading each other’s cyberbullying Thimble stories.

Findings – working towards strengthening our community building

There were many insightful and powerful conversations had during this camp, with youth sharing their ideas, stories and thoughts on cyberbullying. The voices echoed in this camp were the ones that needed to be heard and to be shared with not only facilitators and peers, but other youth, adults and community leaders building upon online safety and web literacy. Ca.pture youth facilitators were integral to making this experience possible, they took charge, owned the space and lead important discussions with their peers. They questioned existing discourses on cyberbullying and shared experiences and stories, pushing the boundaries of institutional learning. Together youth camp counselors and youth participants amplified their voices, proving that there is a need for them to be given a platform to be heard and when given the chance, they will take up the leadership needed to promote and advocated for better digital citizenship and a safe space and community on the web.

I will use these skills and teach it to other people, like I’ve been taught here, Youth

Group photo of adult facilitators, youth camp counselors and youth campers.