Bullying is about power and control. Bullying is a conscious, willful, deliberate, repeated and hostile (aggressive) activity marked by an imbalance of power, with the intent to harm and/or the threat of aggression. About one in five 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.
The different types of bullying are:
- 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.
- 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. Leaving people out because of their religion.
- Social Bullying: exclusion, gossip, ganging up, mobbing, scapegoating, humiliating others, coercing, gestures or graffiti intended to put others down, breaking up friendships on purpose.
- 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.
We’ve given special attention to cyberbullying and homophobic bullying as it is becoming an increasingly concerning issue with alarming and traumatizing impact on youth.
Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Tumblr as well email and texting have become a large part of the way youth communicate and socialize. It is for this reason that cyberbullying has become an increasing reality among adolescents.
Cyberbullying involves using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, ID theft, websites, blogs, gaming sites) or mobile phones to intimidate, put down or spread rumours about someone. Cyberbullies feel safe as they can hide behind their computer or cell 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 or guardians can do about cyberbullying:
- Be honest and speak to your child often about their online activities and interactions.
- Check with your child on a regular basis to make sure everything’s OK.
- Watch for any changes in their behaviour regarding cell phone and computer use.
- Make sure your kids feel comfortable coming to you with any issues they have.
Here are some great tips on how to prevent cyberbullying and what to do if it’s already happening:
Treating someone badly, using violence, making sexual remarks or leaving them out because they identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-spirited, or Queer (LGBTTQ), are forms of homophobic bullying. Research shows that youth who identify as LGBTTQ are more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. Feelings of hopelessness, history of family dysfunction, sexual abuse, and substance abuse can put youth at risk for suicide. Youth who identify as LGBTTQ face other risk factors including lack of family acceptance, younger age of disclosure, and bullying regarding their sexuality. Visit our Sexual Diversity page for more information.
What parents or guardians can do about homophobic 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. Reach out and find information on sexual and gender minority issues and childhood/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. Don’t ignore your child’s feelings or emotions. Help to develop their strengths by creating opportunities for them to excel at activities of interest to them.
Everyone deserves the right to be him or herself without fear of verbal or physical abuse or violence. Homophobic bullying, just like other forms of bullying, is not a normal part of growing up and should never be considered acceptable behaviour.
Here are some great links to tips on how to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying and what to do if it is already happening:
Myths & Facts
Bullying is a normal part of growing up and builds character.
FACT: Bullying IS NOT a normal part of growing up. It does NOT build character. Bullying is a learned behaviour and not something all kids go through. Bullying can cause long-term physical problems including: shyness, stomach aches, head aches, panic attacks, difficulties sleeping, exhaustion, and nightmares.
My child is just a bystander, they aren't directly involved and there is nothing they can do.
FACT: Those who stand by and do nothing (bystanders) make bullying worse. Bystanders can help stop bullying by refusing to encourage or cheer 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 was just a few comments on Facebook…they can easily be erased.
FACT: Cyberbullying differs from face-to-face bullying in that 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 left unsure of who knows, and whom to fear. Research suggests cyberbullying may cause damaging effects to youth, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, anger, depression, school absenteeism, poor grades, an increased tendency to violate against others, and suicide.
They're just teasing. Kids are resilient, they'll get over it.
FACT: Relationships are important in healthy development and well-being. Children whose views of relationships are shaped by bullying can be affected for life. Those who get their way by bullying can transition to adulthood and continue to use bullying behaviours such as sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence and work harassment. People who have experienced bullying can carry hurt and fear into their adult relationships.
FACY: Bullying is a learned behaviour. Children may be imitating aggressive behaviour they have seen on television, in movies or video games or at home. Findings show that 25% of boys aged 12 to 17 regularly visit gore and hate Internet sites, but that media literacy classes decreased the boys’ viewing of violence, as well as their acts of violence in the playground. It is important for adults to discuss violence in the media with youth, so they can learn how to keep it in context. There is a need to focus on changing attitudes toward violence.
FACT: Hurtful language against LGBTTQ is the most commonly heard form of verbal bullying in schools, yet it is the least responded to by adults and youth. If homophobic bullying is not addressed, it tells everyone affected that it is okay to to treat people badly.
How to Recognize Bullying
Is my child the target of bullying?
Children may not speak up about being bullied for a number of reasons. They could be ashamed or embarrassed or afraid the person who is bullying will treat them even worse. Children may feel they have to remain silent in order to belong to peer groups. 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:
- Being afraid to go to school, skipping school, or complaining about feeling ill in the mornings
- Starting to do poorly in school
- “Losing” belongings or coming home with clothes or books destroyed
- Unexplained bruises or cuts
- Having nightmares
- Becoming withdrawn or beginning to bully other children
- Attempting or talking about suicide
What to do if you suspect 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?
- DO offer comfort. Be ready to listen. Let your child know you are there to support them and to help keep them safe.
- DO 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.
- DO 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.
- DO 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.
- DO practice how to respond with your child. Your child can learn to respond to their bully in an useful way. Teach your child to respond without anger as this may make things worse.
- DO 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.
- DO 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.
- DO NOT minimize, excuse or explain away the bully’s behaviour. This may cause your child to think the bullying is their fault and they may not see you as someone they can go to for help.
- DO NOT rush in to solve the problem for your child. Let your child come up with solutions and help them figure out if these solutions will make the problem better or worse.
- DO NOT tell your child to fight back. Violence is NOT a way to solve problems. Encourage non-violent ways to express feelings, opinions and to solve problems.
- DO NOT confront the bully or the bully’s parent alone.
Is my child involved in bullying?
People use bullying behaviour for various reasons. Often they want to have power over others or feel the need to dominate. Here are some warning signs that may be clues your child is involved in bullying:
- Have extra money or clothes
- May boast about taunting someone, or pass off teasing as a joke
- Laugh or not care when other kids gets hurt
- Demonstrate aggressive behaviour with peers
- Leave other kids out
- Name calling with friends or family members
- Show aggressive behaviour towards parents, teachers or other adults.
What to do if you suspect your child is bullying:
- DO stay calm. Get as much information as possible from teachers and other people about the situation and your child’s behaviour.
- DO be firm. Stop bullying behaviour when it happens. Let your child know that bullying is NOT acceptable. Discuss how behaviours can be helpful or hurtful and stress your love and support in getting help to change bullying behaviour.
- DO ask why. Talk about how bullying affects others and how your child would feel if they were being bullied.
- DO 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.
- DO use non-violent consequences. Work out a non-violent consequence with your child. Make sure it suits their actions and age. For example, take away a privilege such as TV or cell phone.
- DO set rules. 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.
- DO seek help. Work with the school, counsellors, and other family members to support positive behaviour change.
- DO monitor TV and Internet use. There is a lot of violence in the media. Point out positive behaviours in the media and talk about suitable role models and heroes.
- DO reflect on your own behaviour. Remember that you are a powerful role model in your child’s life. Practice healthy relationships in the family and in the community.
Link Statement: Links to resources outside of the website are provided for information only and do not imply an endorsement of views, products, or services. Although our staff regularly reviews these links, we can’t be certain that they are 100% credible since their content can be changed at any time.
Alberta Government: online resource for parents looking for more information on bullying prevention.
Alberta Education: online resource for parents looking for more information on bullying.
MediaSmarts: a comprehensive collection of digital and media literacy resources to support adults with information and tools so they can help children and teens develop the critical thinking skills they need for interacting with the media they love.
For Children & Youth
Team Heros: developed by the Alberta Government to help kids learn about bullying prevention and intervention through this interactive online game.
Kids Help Phone:has a section for younger children and teens to provide support and information about different types of bullying, what to do if they are a target, a bystander, or bullying others.
For advice and support on bullying please call the Government of Alberta Bullying Helpline at 1-888-456-2323. This helpline is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week and offers help in more than 170 languages.