Bullying is a painful reality for the majority of Canadian children and youth.

Whether they are the ones being hurt, or the ones being aggressive towards others, children may find talking to adults about bullying difficult. Adult intervention is the key to bullying prevention; parents and educators alike need to be aware of the behaviours and emotional signs that children are being victimized or are using power aggressively. Because bullying is foremost a relationship problem, adults must also look for signs of bullying or victimization within the child’s relationships. These signs indicate that children who are being bullied often lack relationships that encourage positive identity, power and independence and children who are bullying often experience power and aggression in their own relationships, or in those close to them.

Emotional & Behavioural Signs of Being Bullied

  • Afraid to go to school or other activities
  • Appears anxious or fearful
  • Low self-esteem and makes negative comments
  • Complains of feeling unwell (headaches and stomach aches)
  • Lower interest in activities and lower performance at school
  • Loses things, needs money, reports being hungry after school
  • Injuries, bruising, damaged clothing or articles
  • Appears unhappy, irritable
  • Trouble sleeping, nightmares
  • Threats to hurt themselves or others
  • May appear isolated from the peer group

Relationship Signs of Being Bullied

  • Parents may be overprotective, restrictive
  • Siblings may bully child at home
  • Lonely and isolated at school
  • Few friends at school or in neighbourhood
  • Teachers may be unaware of child’s strengths and challenges and therefore unresponsive to needs
  • Few opportunities to shine and show talents at home, school or in the community (positive power)

Emotional & Behavioural Signs of Bullying Others

  • Aggressive with parents, siblings, pets, and friends
  • Low concern for others’ feelings
  • Bossy and manipulative behaviour
  • Unexplained objects or money
  • Secretive about possessions and activities
  • Holds a positive view of aggression
  • Easily frustrated and quick to anger
  • Does not recognize impact of his/her behaviour

Relationship Signs of Bullying Others

  • Parents may model use of power and aggression by yelling, hitting or rejecting child
  • Parents may model use of power and aggression with each other
  • Siblings may bully child at home
  • Child has friends who bully and are aggressive
  • Child has trouble standing up to peer pressure
  • Teachers or coaches may model use of power and aggression by yelling, excluding or rejecting
  • Few opportunities to shine and show talents at home, school or in the community (positive power)

ullying is a major health issue and the side-effects are immediate and long-lasting. In the most tragic of cases, bullying has had fatal consequences. Children and adolescents who are involved in bullying (either as an aggressor, as a victim, or both) put themselves at risk for a number of emotional and behavioural problems, now and in the future, and require support to learn how to develop healthy relationships.

Dangers for Children and Adolescents Who Are Bullied:

  • Depression (low mood, a sense of hopelessness)
  • Social anxiety, loneliness, isolation
  • Stress related health problems (e.g., headaches, stomach aches)
  • Low self esteem
  • School absenteeism and academic problems
  • Aggressive behaviours
  • Contemplating, attempting, or committing suicide

Dangers for Children and Adolescents Who Bully Others:

  • Not knowing the difference between right and wrong
  • Delinquency and substance use
  • Academic problems and increased school drop out rate
  • Aggression
  • Sexual harassment and dating aggression
  • Gang involvement and criminal adulthood
  • Difficulties in their relationships with others
  • Being bullied at the hands of others

Types of Bullying

Bullying evolves throughout childhood.

Bullying is repeated and targeted aggression and does not need to be physical in order to be hurtful. Physical bullying may be more present during the elementary school years, while more covert forms such as social and cyber-bullying can take precedence during high school.

Physical Bullying

Includes hitting, kicking, shoving, spitting, beating up, stealing or damaging property.

While physical bullying causes harm to a child’s body or property, the below forms of bullying cause psychological harm. Such offensive, degrading and rejecting behaviours undermine and destabilize victimized children’s sense of themselves, of their place in the school, and of their place in the world.

Verbal Bullying

Includes name-calling, mocking, hurtful teasing, insults, slurs, humiliating or threatening someone, racist comments, or sexual harassment.

Social Bullying

Includes rolling your eyes or turning away from someone, excluding others from the group, getting others to ignore or exclude, gossiping or spreading rumours, setting others up to look foolish, and damaging reputations and friendships.

Electronic or Cyberbullying

Includes the use of email, cell phones, text messages, and internet sites to threaten, harass, embarrass, socially exclude, or damage reputations and friendships.

Racial Bullying

Includes treating people badly because of their racial or ethnic background, saying bad things about a cultural background, calling someone racist names or telling racist jokes.

Religious Bullying

Includes treating people badly because of their religious background or beliefs, making negative comments about a religious background or belief, calling someone names or telling jokes based on his of her religious beliefs in an effort to hurt them.

Sexual Bullying

Includes leaving someone out; treating them badly, or making them feel uncomfortable because of their sex; making sexist comments or jokes; touching, pinching or grabbing someone in a sexual way; making crude comments about someone’s sexual behaviour or orientation; or spreading a sexual rumour.

Disability Bullying

Includes leaving someone out or treating them badly because of a disability, making someone feel uncomfortable, or making jokes to hurt someone because of a disability.

Facts & Solutions

Knowledge is power – focusing on evidence-based research

Facts & Solutions

A number of myths about bullying continue to circulate, leading people to believe it’s a normal part of childhood.

The facts tell us this is simply not the case. Bullying is a complex problem that requires a multitude of approaches. Here you will learn the facts we know about bullying, and the various solutions that must be implemented if we are ever to eradicate this problem for our children.

Fact: Bullying causes serious harm

Bullying causes a number of social, physical and mental health problems. Compared to children who do not report involvement in bullying problems:

  • Children who are bullied suffer more headaches, stomach aches, depression and anxiety. Mental health problems associated with bullying tend to last until later in life.
  • Children who bully, and those who are bullied, are at greater risk of suicide.
  • Children who bully, and those who are bullied, will be more likely to miss school, show little interest in their studies and suffer poor grades.
  • Children who bully are more likely to use drugs and alcohol and engage in criminal activity. According to one of the world’s leading researchers on bullying, 60% of boys who frequently bullied others in elementary school had criminal records by age 24.

Solution: Bullying is a disrespectful peer relationship problem. It is essential to identify and help children early – both those who bully others and those who are at risk of being bullied – in order to support the development of healthy relationships.

Fact: Children do not grow out of bullying

Without intervention, a significant number of youth who bully in childhood will continue to bully as they move through adolescence and into adulthood. As children mature, the nature of bullying changes. From early adolescence, new forms of aggression emerge. With developing thinking and social skills, children become aware of others’ vulnerabilities and of their own power relative to others. Bullying then diversifies into more sophisticated forms of verbal, social, homophobic, and sexually and racially based aggression. Over time, these new forms of aggression are carried forward into different relationships and environments. The destructive lessons learned in childhood about the negative use of power may translate into sexual harassment in the workplace, dating violence, marital abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse.

Solution: Early identification and intervention of bullying will prevent patterns of aggressive interactions from forming. Adults need to be aware that bullying changes with age and may become more difficult to detect.

Fact: Bullying affects the majority of our children

Approximately 12% of girls and 18% of boys reported bullying others at least twice in previous months. 15% of girls and 18% of boys reported being victimized at least twice over the same time period.

These figures suggest that in a classroom of 35 students, between 4 and 6 children are bullying and/or are being bullied. Many more children observe bullying and know that it is going on. At some point, the majority of children will engage in some form of bullying and experience some form of victimization. A small minority of children will have frequent, long-lasting, serious, and pervasive involvement in bullying and/or victimization.

Solution: To ensure that children have healthy and productive relationships, bullying prevention programs and strategies must include and support all children, whether they are bullying, are being bullied or are witnessing bullying.

Fact: We are not doing enough to protect Canadian youth

Canada ranked a dismal 26th and 27th out of 35 countries on measures of bullying and victimization, according to a recent World Health Organization survey.

Canada’s low international ranking suggests that other countries have been preventing bullying problems more effectively than Canada. One of the reasons for this is our lack of a national campaign to address bullying problems. The high proportions of Canadian students who report bullying or being bullied confirm that this is an important social problem for Canada.

Solution: PREVNet’s vision is to stop bullying in Canada and to promote safe and healthy relationships for all Canadian children and youth. Led by Scientific Co-Directors, Dr. Debra Pepler of York University and Dr. Wendy Craig of Queen’s University, this national network is the first of its kind in Canada and provides an unprecedented opportunity for social innovation and social-cultural change.

Fact: Reporting bullying is an effective way to stop the violence

Bullying is a relationship problem. It is about power and the abuse of power and it is incredibly difficult for children who are being victimized to remove themselves from this destructive relationship. Once a bullying relationship is established, attempts to make the bullying stop on their own are usually unsuccessful and may make the bullying worse. Adult intervention is required to correct the power imbalance. Children and parents may have to report the bullying to more than one responsible adult before an effective intervention is implemented to stop the bullying.

We know that victimized children who told an adult about being bullied reported being less victimized the following year compared to children who did not report being bullied. When no one reports the bullying, children who bully feel they can carry on without consequences. Secrecy empowers children who bully.

Solution: Children need to be encouraged to report bullying and be given multiple strategies on how to make these reports. Responsible adults must convey the message that they want to know about children’s experiences and that it is an adult’s job to help make the bullying stop.

Fact: Fighting back makes the bullying worse

Encouraging children who are victimized to fight back can make the bullying interaction worse. Our research shows that when children use aggressive strategies to manage bullying situations, they tend to experience prolonged and more severe bullying interactions as a result.

Solution: Children should be encouraged to be assertive, not aggressive, and to tell a trusted adult about what has happened to them. To be assertive means that the child who feels bullied sends the message that the bullying behaviour is not OK and that he or she will report it to a responsible adult if it doesn’t stop. An assertive message is clear and respectful. It does not put down or insult the person who is bullying. Coaching and role playing can help children learn assertive responses.

Fact: Bullying happens wherever children gather to live, learn, or play

While the majority of bullying tends to occur in the classroom, on the school playground, and on the school bus where children are most often together, we know that bullying is a community problem, not just a school problem. As the primary institution in children’s lives, schools can play a leadership role in addressing bullying problems.

Solution: Adults are essential for children and youth’s healthy relationships. All adults are responsible for creating positive environments, promoting healthy relationships, and ending violence in the lives of children and youth. Adults can lead social activities in ways that protect and support children’s healthy relationships and stop bullying.

Fact: Bullying can occur within the family or the family home

Bullying is a relationship problem defined by the use of aggression by a person with greater power towards a person with lesser power. Aggression within family relationships is termed “child abuse”, “elder abuse” or “intimate partner violence”. Within peer relationships, it is called “bullying” or “harassment”. Abuse can occur in romantic relationships within couples (intimate partner violence, woman abuse), parents and children, (child abuse, elder abuse) and in other relationships in the extended family (grandparents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.). Bullying can occur within sibling relationships and between cousins.

The family is the first context in which children learn about relationships, and lessons learned in the family provide the foundation for future relationships. In relationships between parents, and between other adult family members, there may be an imbalance of power due to biological, cultural, psychological or economic factors. In relationships between parents (or other caregivers) and children, the adults have greater power due to children’s immaturity, vulnerability and dependence. In relationships between siblings or cousins, there is often a power imbalance due to differences in age, ability or status within the family.

Despite these power differences within families, there is a universal expectation that those with more power have a responsibility to safeguard the well-being of those with less power. When there is a repeated pattern of the violation of this responsibility (either by neglect or by acts that cause distress), we use the term “abuse”. Research shows that there is a developmental connection between experiencing or witnessing abuse in the family, and experiencing or perpetuating bullying and abuse in future relationships.

Solution: It is critically important that children see and experience secure and healthy relationships in the family. We must show through our actions and teach through our words that those with more power have a responsibility to protect and safeguard the well-being of those with less power. By modeling respectful relationships and taking responsibility for the well being of those who are dependent and vulnerable, both within and beyond the family, adults can help to promote healthy relationships and prevent bullying and abuse.

Fact: Peers play a major role in bullying – by either escalating or stopping it

In about 85-88% of bullying incidents observed on the school playground, peers were present and were watching the bullying happen. Peers spent 54% of the time watching the child who was bullying, 21% of the time joining in and only 25% of the time watching the victimized child. Children are drawn to bullying episodes, even though the majority of children say they don’t like to see another child being hurt. Children who are bystanders learn about the negative use of power and aggression in relationships. Overtime, bullying behaviour becomes “normalized”.

With a captive audience, a child who is bullying receives the attention of peers and this brings social status. Peer attention and status reinforces the bullying behaviour (making it more likely it will be repeated). Yet, when peers had the confidence and courage to intervene, the bullying ended within 10 seconds in the majority of playground episodes.

Solution: Change bystanders into heroes! Children need help understanding their social responsibility to do something when they know someone is being bullied. Adults can coach kids to collectively take a stand and step in assertively. When more than one child steps in, it helps to shift the power imbalance. Children will benefit from role-playing and need scripts for what to say and do to intervene in a positive way. When children do not feel safe or comfortable standing up to those who bully, they should be encouraged to report the bullying to an adult.

Fact: Bullying is a human rights issue – one of safety and inclusion

Many children endure bullying on a daily basis. This type of abuse is a violation of human rights. All children involved in bullying – those who are bullied, those who bully others, and those who know it is going on – require support to promote healthy development, positive relationships and to protect their welfare.

Canada has signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 29 of the Convention states that education must be directed to:

The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of the sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin.

As a society, therefore, we must educate children to ensure they develop positive attitudes and behaviours and avoid using their power to bully or harass others.

The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child also addresses the rights of children who are at the receiving end of bullying and harassment. Article 19 of the Convention states:

Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

The traditional focus on child abuse has been protecting children from adults. Research on bullying shows us we need to protect children who experience “forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse” at the hands of their peers. For every one child concerned about being sexually abused by an adult, there are three children concerned about being beaten up by peers.

Solution: Protection starts with the adults in children’s lives

The responsibility to protect children from all forms of abuse, including bullying, is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and other adults in the community who are in contact with children and youth. At home, parents are responsible for their children’s safety and well-being. Adults in school, on sports teams, and in community activities are all responsible for the safety and well-being of children and youth in their care.

By promoting healthy relationships, we can prevent bullying and support children and youth in developing social skills, understanding and respect, social responsibility, and citizenship. PREVNet recognizes these attributes as the foundation for a cohesive, productive, and peaceful society.

What Kids Need to Know

Bullying is NOT cool. It’s NEVER okay. And it’s NOT your fault.

How we can help

If bullying is a part of your life, we can help you make it stop. If you are bullying others, we can help YOU stop. Remember, you don’t have to deal with this on your own.

Help! I'm being bullied

Help! I’m being bullied

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Help! I see someone who is bullying

Help! I see someone who is bullying

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Help! I am bullying others

Help! I am bullying others

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PREVNet's Letter to Adults

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What Teens Need to Know

Nobody said it was easy…
No one ever said it would be this hard

“The Scientist” – Cold Play

Are you scared to go to school?Are you scared to go to school? Are you afraid someone is going to physically hurt you? Or worse, humiliate you or spread vicious rumours? Do you sit by yourself at lunch and pray no one notices you? Or hope that someone might? Read More…

Done something wrong?Are you scared because you know you’ve done something wrong? Something that has harmed another person and you don’t know how to fix it? Or maybe you’ve been bullied and are taking out the pain you feel on someone else? Read More…

Are you scared for a friend?Are you scared for a friend? Afraid they might get hurt, or worse, hurt themselves? Do you know people who are being bullied but don’t know how to help? Maybe you’re afraid to help because you don’t want people to turn on you? Read More…

Each and every one of you can stop bullying. You can stop the pain, the humiliation and the violence. You can be the change you want to see in the world. It’s up to you.

You have the Power!

Send us your favourite You Tube videos about making a stand to stop bullying and we will highlight the best each month.

What Parents Need to Know

Bullying is not a normal part of growing up.

Bullying - What Parents Need to Know

Bullying affects the majority of Canadian children, at least once, throughout their childhood. For some kids, bullying is a daily reality. Bullying is about power and the abuse of power – and abuse is not a normal part of childhood. The effects of bullying are immediate and long-lasting, putting our children at risk for a number of physical, social and mental health problems. As parents, these risks should not be acceptable. Adult intervention stops bullying – it is our responsibility. 

Risks for Children who bully

Children who bully are learning to use power and aggression to control and victimize other children. If their behaviour is not addressed they risk growing up not knowing the difference between right and wrong. They risk high rates of delinquency, substance abuse, academic problems and a future of crime. Children who bully risk a lifetime of difficult relationships with others, including being bullied themselves.

Risks for Children who are being bullied

Children who are being bullied feel increasingly powerless and become trapped in relationships in which they are being abused. If the imbalance of power is not addressed, these children will experience social anxiety, loneliness and a sense of hopelessness. They will suffer from headaches, stomach aches and low self esteem. They will want to avoid school, risking their academic performance and increasing their isolation. Children who are being bullied are at higher risk of depression and are more likely to contemplate, attempt or commit suicide.

The Parent’s Role

Parents are responsible for creating positive environments that promote children’s ability to create and maintain healthy relationships.  By helping children develop the essential social skills to navigate peer conflicts and by minimizing opportunities for negative peer interactions, parents can help adjust the imbalance of power inherent in bullying relationships.

Bullying can take on many different forms as children progress from early childhood to adolescence. During this time, your child could rotate between any of three characters: the one being bullied, the one bullying and the one watching it all happen. Regardless of what role your child plays, bullying has long-term negative consequences and must be challenged.

This section offers information and practical strategies parents can use to help their children build healthy relationships and prevent violence.

What Educators Need to Know

Over 1,100,000 Canadian school-aged students are bullied at least once, each and every week

Bullying in school

The Teacher’s Role

Children spend a large portion of their day in school. Their experiences while there have a tremendous impact on their development, affecting both their physical and mental health. Bullying can happen wherever children gather – in the playground, at summer camp, on sports teams or during organized activities – but the majority of bullying happens at school, making teachers a child’s first line of defense.

It is absolutely critical that teachers take bullying seriously, intervening when necessary and encouraging healthy relationship skills. The bullying behaviour children experience or adopt within peer relationships at school will carry over to other relationships as they move through adolescence and into adulthood.

Teachers influence how students develop social skills, empathy, social responsibility and citizenship. Relationship skills are just as essential as knowing how to read and write. When children are taught how to recognize and manage their emotions, how to make decisions and how to behave ethically and responsibly, they are better equipped to engage in healthy relationships.

Not sure what bullying looks like? Learn more about the difference between teasing and bullying and how bullying evolves throughout childhood.

Helping Students Who are Bullied

Helping Students Who are Bullied

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Helping Students Who Bully

Helping Students Who Bully

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What Teachers Can Do in the Classroom

What Teachers Can Do in the Classroom

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Helping LGBTQ Students Feel Safe

Helping LGBTQ Students Feel Safe

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The Difference Between Teasing and Bullying

The Difference Between Teasing and Bullying

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What School Bus Drivers Need To Know

What School Bus Drivers Need To Know

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Does Your School Make The Grade?
Does Your School Make The Grade?

Does Your School Make The Grade?

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