Bullying is about physical or social power and control. Bullying is a deliberate, repeated and hostile behaviour meant to cause fear, distress, or harm (both psychological or 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.
Facts about Bullying
- Bullying isn’t 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.
- Other students aren’t just bystanders. 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 students that it’s 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 is different than face-to-face bullying because it’s relentless, public, yet 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 aren’t sure who knows about the bullying and who they should fear. Research suggests cyberbullying may cause damaging effects to children, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, missing or skipping school, poor grades, anger, depression, violence against others and suicide.
- It’s not just teasing—a child may never get over it. Relationships are an important part of healthy development and well-being. Children who are bullied 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. They may continue bullying behaviours such as sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence and workplace harassment.
Types of Bullying
- Verbal: 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: 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
- Cyber use 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: exclusion, gossip, ganging up, mobbing, scapegoating, humiliating others, coercing, gestures or graffiti intended to put others down or break up friendships on purpose
- Racial: 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: making fun of someone’s religion, beliefs and rituals, or leaving people out because of their religion or non-belief
- Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic: treating someone poorly because they identify as LGTBQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual)
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 young people communicate and socialize. Because of these sites and young people’s access to them, cyberbullying has become a reality for today’s children.
Cyberbullying uses 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 because they’re hiding behind their computer or phone and can 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 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 cause more harm than face-to-face bullying, because there’s no escape. It can happen any time, any place.
For tips on how to prevent cyberbullying and what to do if it’s already happening, see Cyberbullying.
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+ are forms of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. Research shows that young people who identify as LGBTQ* are more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. To learn more about homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, see Sexual & Gender Diversity.
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 are never acceptable behaviour.
For tips on how to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying and what to do if it’s already happening, see Transphobic Bullying.
How to Recognize Bullying
There are many reasons why a child may not speak up about being bullied. They could be ashamed, embarrassed or afraid their bully will treat them even worse. Children may feel they can’t say anything if they want to belong to a peer group. A child’s behaviour may be a clue to bullying even before they’re ready to talk about it.
Some warning signs a child may be being bullied include:
- skipping school
- starting to do poorly in school
- ‘losing’ their belongings or coming to school with clothes or books that have been vandalized or destroyed
- having unexplained bruises or cuts
- becoming withdrawn or begin bullying other children
- attempting or talking about suicide
If you think a child is being bullied, ask them directly. Assure them that anything they say is confidential: Are there any bullies in our 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 A Child is Being Bullied at School
- offer comfort and be ready to listen. Let your student know you’re there to support them.
- work with the parents and the school administrators, so the situation can be watched or controlled.
- help your student make arrangements for safety. Be sure they know where to go for help. Have your student identify other safe and trusted adults and safe places at school.
- help your student develop social skills. Encourage them to take part in activities they enjoy and help build self-esteem. Bullies like to pick on kids who are alone or have few friends.
- think about your own actions. Think about how you treat others and how you let others treat you. As a role model, your actions and reactions can influence how your students relate to others.
What NOT to Do if A Child is Being Bullied At School
- minimize or excuse the bully’s behaviour. This may make your student think that the bullying is their fault or they may not see you as someone they can go to for help.
- rush in to solve the problem for your student. Instead, let them come up with solutions and help them figure out if these solutions will make the problem better or worse.
- tell your student to fight back. Violence does NOT solve problems. Encourage non-violent ways to express feelings, opinions and to solve problems.
- confront the bully or the bully’s parents alone.
I Think My Student Might Be a Bully
People become bullies for different reasons. Often they want to have power over others or feel the need to dominate. Some warning signs that your student may be involved in bullying are that they:
- talk about taunting someone, or pass off teasing as a joke
- laugh or don’t care when other kids get hurt
- are aggressive with peers
- leave other kids out
- name call with friends or family members
- show aggressive behaviour towards parents, teachers or other adults
What to Do if You Think Your Student is Bullying
- Stay calm. Get as much information as possible from other teachers and people about the situation and the student’s behaviour.
- Be firm. Stop bullying behaviour when it happens. Let the student know that bullying is NOT acceptable.
- Talk about how bullying affects others and how your student would feel if they were being bullied.
- Encourage the student to use positive, non-violent ways to express their feelings and opinions.
- Use non-violent consequences. Make sure it suits their actions and age.
- Set clear and reasonable rules. If a rule is broken, tell the student what they’ve done and how they should respond in the future.
- Get help. Work with the parents, school administration, and counsellors to support positive behaviour change.
- Think about your own behaviour. Remember that you’re a powerful role model in your students’ lives. Model healthy relationships in your classroom.
For more help or information, see Additional Resources.
Call the 24 hour Bullying Prevention Helpline at 1-888-456-2323 (toll-free in Alberta) for advice and strategies on bullying prevention and building healthy relationships