Bullying is about physical or social power and control. Bullying is a deliberate, repeated and hostile behaviour intended to cause harm, fear or distress, including psychological harm or harm to a person’s reputation. About 1 in 5 children are bullied regularly in Canada. Bullying can have harmful effects that can cause mental health problems, poor school success, and can lead to deadly violence and suicide. Get the facts on bullying.
The Facts About Bullying
- Bullying is not a normal part of growing up. Bullying does NOT build character. Bullying is a learned behaviour and not something all kids go through. Bullying can cause long-term physical problems and mental health issues.
- Your child is not just a bystander. Even if they aren’t directly involved, they can do something. Those who stand by and do nothing (bystanders) make bullying worse. Bystanders can help stop bullying by not encouraging or cheering on the bully, and by supporting the person being bullied. Remind your child that it is important to report bullying to a trusted adult, whether it’s happening to them or to someone else.
- It’s not just a few comments on Facebook or Snapchat…they can’t easily be erased. Cyberbullying differs from face-to-face bullying because it is relentless and public and at the same time anonymous. It’s no longer only the ‘tough kids’ who may act aggressively—it can just as easily be the shy, quiet types, hidden behind their computers. Because this type of bullying is public, victims are unsure of who knows about the bullying and who they should fear. Research suggests cyberbullying may cause damaging effects to youth, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, anger, depression, missing or skipping school, poor grades, violence against others and suicide.
- It’s not just teasing—kids may not get over it. Relationships are important in healthy development and well-being. Children who experience bullying can be affected for life. They may carry their pain and fear into their adult relationships. Those who get their way by bullying can carry this behaviour into adulthood and may continue to use bullying behaviours such as sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence and work harassment.
Different Types of Bullying
- verbal bullying: name-calling, put-downs, threats, spreading rumours, making rude or stereotypical comments about one’s culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, race, and/or religion
- physical bullying: hitting, poking, pinching, chasing, shoving, damaging personal property
- sexual harassment: uninvited and unwanted sexual touching, making sexual remarks about someone’s body, spreading rumours about someone’s sexual reputation
- cyberbullying: involves using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, ID theft, websites, blogs, gaming sites) or mobile phones to intimidate, put down or spread rumours about someone
- social bullying: exclusion, gossip, ganging up, mobbing, scapegoating, humiliating others, coercing, gestures or graffiti intended to put others down or break up friendships on purpose
- racial bullying: treating someone badly because of their skin colour, cultural or religious background or ethnic origin. This includes making fun of someone’s accent or speech, clothing, food and/or leaving people out because of their race or culture.
- religious bullying: making fun of someone’s religion, beliefs and rituals. This includes leaving people out because of their religion or non-belief.
- homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying: treating someone badly because they identify as LGTBQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirit, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual)
Additional information on cyberbullying, homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is provided below as they are becoming more of a concern in school communities, with an alarming and traumatizing impact on youth.
Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Snapchat and Tumblr, as well as email and texting have become a large part of the way youth communicate and socialize. Because of these sites and youth’s access to them, cyberbullying has become an increasing reality among youth.
Cyberbullying involves using the Internet, social media, and other interactive technologies (like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, websites, blogs, gaming sites) or smart phones to intimidate, put down or spread rumours about someone. Cyberbullies feel safe as they can hide behind their computer or phone and be more secretive about their behaviours. This is a very complex type of bullying as it can involve direct bullying or using others to bully. It comes in many different forms. The only limits to what can be done are based on the bully’s imagination and access to technology.
Cyberbullying can cause low self-esteem, skipping school, depression and even suicide. Cyber threats can be more harmful than face-to-face bullying, because there’s no escape. It can happen any time, any place.
What parents can do about cyberbullying:
- be honest and talk to your child often about their online activities and behaviours
- check with your child on a regular basis to make sure everything’s OK
- watch for any changes in their behaviour around phone and computer use
- make sure your child feels comfortable coming to you with any issues they have
Click here for some great tips on how to prevent cyberbullying and what to do if it’s already happening.
Homophobic, Biphobic, and Transphobic Bullying
Treating someone poorly (e.g., threats, name calling, pushing, hitting, using violence, making sexual remarks, leaving them out) because they identify as LGTBQ* (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirit, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual), are forms of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. Research shows that youth who identify as LGBTQ* are more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. For more information on homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, visit our Sexual Diversity page.
What Parents Can Do About Homophobic, Biphobic or Transphobic Bullying
- Offer support. Acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings and emotions.
- Listen. Don’t judge them or blame them for what happened.
- Educate yourself. Find information on sexual and gender minority issues and childhood and adolescent development.
- Work with your school. Report any bullying incidents to your school immediately.
- Document everything. If bullying persists, ask to speak to your school district’s administration team to develop a safety plan.
- Contact the police. If your child is threatened, physically hurt, sexually assaulted, or if their property is damaged or stolen, immediately contact your local police or RCMP.
- Communicate and help build self-esteem. Help to develop their strengths by creating opportunities for them to participate in activities of interest to them.
Everyone deserves the right to be themselves without fear of verbal or physical abuse or violence. Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, just like other forms of bullying, are not a normal part of growing up and should never be considered acceptable behaviour.
How To Recognize Bullying
Children may not speak up about being bullied for many reasons. They could be ashamed, embarrassed or afraid their bully will treat them even worse. Children may feel they have to remain silent in order to belong to a peer group. Your child’s behaviour may be a clue to bullying even before they are ready to talk about it.
Here are some warning signs your child may be being bullied:
- they are afraid to go to school, are skipping school, or complaining about feeling ill in the mornings
- they are starting to do poorly in school
- they are ‘losing’ their belongings or coming home with clothes or books that have been vandalized or destroyed
- they have unexplained bruises or cuts
- they are having nightmares
- they are becoming withdrawn or are beginning to bully other children
- they are attempting or talking about suicide
If you think your child is being bullied, ask them directly. Are there any bullies in your school or class? What are some of the things they say or do? Who do they pick on? Do they ever bully you?
What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied
- offer comfort and be ready to listen. Let your child know you are there to support them and to help keep them safe.
- work with the school. Contact your child’s school immediately so the situation can be watched or controlled. Ask about anti-bullying programs. If there isn’t one in place at your child’s school maybe you could help set one up.
- make arrangements for safety. Be sure your child knows where to go for help. Have your child identify a safe and trusted adult and a safe place at school.
- help your child develop social skills. Encourage them to participate in activities they enjoy and help build self-esteem. Bullies like to pick on kids who are alone or have few friends.
- practice with your child how to respond to bullies. Your child can learn to respond to their bully in a useful way. Teach your child to respond without anger as this may make things worse.
- communicate. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings and ideas. This may take time but will help with problem-solving skills and breaking free from the fear of tattling.
- consider your own actions. Think about how you treat others and how you allow others to treat you. As a role model, your actions and reactions can influence how your child relates to others.
What Not To Do if Your Child Is Being Bullied
- minimize or excuse the bully’s behaviour. This may make your child think that the bullying is their fault and they may not see you as someone they can go to for help.
- rush in to solve the problem for your child. Instead, let your child come up with solutions and help them figure out if these solutions will make the problem better or worse.
- tell your child to fight back. Violence will NOT solve problems. Encourage non-violent ways to express feelings, opinions and to solve problems.
- confront the bully or the bully’s parents alone
Is My Child A Bully?
People become bullies for various reasons. Often they want to have power over others or feel the need to dominate. Here are some warning signs that your child may be involved in bullying:
- if they have extra money or clothes
- if they talk about taunting someone, or pass off teasing as a joke
- if they laugh or don’t care when other kids get hurt
- if they demonstrate aggressive behaviour with peers
- if they leave other kids out
- if they name call with friends or family members
- if they show aggressive behaviour towards parents, teachers or other adults.
What To Do If You Think Your Child Is Bullying
- stay calm. Get as much information as possible from teachers and other people about the situation and your child’s behaviour.
- be firm. Stop bullying behaviour when it happens. Let your child know that bullying is NOT acceptable. Discuss how bullying can be hurtful.
- ask why. Talk about how bullying affects others and how your child would feel if they were being bullied.
- encourage positive non-violent ways to express feelings and opinions. Talk to your child about how they are feeling. Find out if anything is troubling them and teach them to use positive problem-solving skills.
- use non-violent consequences. Make sure it suits their actions and age. For example, take away a privilege such as TV or cell phone.
- set clear and reasonable rules. If a rule is broken, tell your child what they have done and how they should respond in the future.
- seek help. Work with the school, counsellors and other family members to support positive behaviour change.
- monitor TV and Internet use. There is a lot of violence in the media. Point out positive behaviours in the media and talk about good role models and heroes.
- reflect on your own behaviour. Remember that you are a powerful role model in your child’s life. Practice healthy relationships in your family and in the community.
For more information, visit our Resources page.