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Bullying and Cyberbullying

An upset teen girl looks at her phone. A group of girls are standing behind her, looking at her and laughing.


Bullying happens when there is an imbalance of power; where someone purposely and repeatedly says or does hurtful things to someone else. Bullying can occur one on one or in a group(s) of people. There are many different forms of bullying:

  • Physical bullying (using your body or objects to cause harm): includes hitting, punching, kicking, spitting or breaking someone else's belongings.
  • Verbal bullying (using words to hurt someone): includes name calling, put-downs, threats and teasing.
  • Social bullying (using your friends and relationships to hurt someone): includes spreading rumours, gossiping, excluding others from a group or making others look foolish or unintelligent. This form of bullying is most common among girls.


Cyberbullying involves the use of communication technologies such as the Internet, social networking sites, websites, email, text messaging and instant messaging to repeatedly intimidate or harass others.

Cyberbullying includes:

  • Sending mean or threatening emails or text/instant messages.
  • Posting embarrassing photos of someone online.
  • Creating a website to make fun of others.
  • Pretending to be someone by using their name.
  • Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others.

Cyberbullying affects victims in different ways than traditional bullying. It can follow a victim everywhere 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from school, to the mall and all the way into the comfort of their home - usually safe from traditional forms of bullying.


Over time, youth who are bullied or bully others find their own ways of dealing with it. While some victims/bullies may become depressed and begin to withdraw socially, others react aggressively and turn to violence.

Dangers for Children and Adolescents Who Are Bullied:

  • Depression
  • 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 dropout 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


Bullying and the Law

Bullying can be a traumatic experience, and some forms of bullying can even be considered illegal. These include:

  • Threats of death or serious bodily harm - whether done face to face, online, over the phone or through text messaging.
  • Criminal Harassment - repeated tormenting online, with texts, phone calls and/or emails causing the other person to fear for their safety.
  • Distribution of intimate images without consent – Sharing naked or sexual pictures of another person without their consent (also known as "revenge porn").
  • Assaults - including pushing, tripping, slapping, hitting or spitting.

For all of these criminal offences, it is important to notify your local police detachment or report it to CYBERTIP.CA. Based on the available information, police will decide if an investigation is warranted and whether charges may be laid.

What You Can Do


If you are a victim of bullying

  • Walk away or leave the online conversation.
  • Keep track of the bullying (write it down and/or save a screenshot of the online message).
  • Tell a trusted adult. If you don't trust anyone or need to speak with someone urgently, contact the confidential and toll-free Kids Help Phone.
  • Report the bullying to school administrators.
  • Report criminal offences, such as threats, assaults and sexual exploitation to the local police detachment.
  • Report unwanted text messages to your telephone service provider.
  • Report online bullying to the social media site and block the person responsible.

If you know someone who is being bullied...

Most types of bullying go on as long as someone is watching and laughing. As a bystander, know that you have the power to stop the bullying. 60% of the time, bullying stops in less than 10 seconds when someone steps in (Kids Help Phone).

  • If you feel it's safe to do so, tell the bully to stop.
  • Find friends/students/youth or an adult who can help stop it.
  • Befriend the person being bullied and lead them away from the situation.
  • Report it to a teacher or school staff.
  • Fill out an anonymous letter and drop it off to a teacher or any adult you trust.


If you know or think that a child is a victim of bullying...

  • Talk to them - Let them know that they can trust you and that they shouldn't deal with bullying alone.
  • Help them:
    • document the bullying;
    • report unwanted text messages to their telephone service provider, or cyberbullying to social media sites;
    • report the bullying to school administrators; and
    • report criminal offences, such as threats, assaults, harassment and sexual exploitation to the local police detachment.