Bullying

If you are a student who is being bullied or at risk of hurting yourself or someone else:

  • Speak with your parents, principal, school counsellor and/or a teacher immediately
  • Call the Crisis Support Centre at 780-482-HELP (4357) or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868
    • Both offer 24/7, confidential support from professional counsellors

For emergency mental health concerns, contact immediately:

  • 911
  • Mental Health Crisis Line at 780-427-4491
  • Mental Health Intake Line at 780-342-2701

If you need help, please reach out:  

  • Alberta Mental Health Addictions at 780-422-7383 
  • Support Network and Distress Line at 780-482-4357
  • Sexual Assault Centre Crisis Line at 780-423-4121
  • Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-387-KIDS (5437)
  • Bullying Hotline at 1-888-456-2323
  • Youth Emergency Shelter at 780-468-7020
  • Sturgeon County Family School Counselling Liaison Program at 780-939-8334 or 1-866-039-9303
  • Sunflower Community Resource Program at 780-923-2374

If you're having a problem, there are many people who can and want to help.

Connect to more online resources: 

About Bullying

Bullying is not a normal part of growing up, and it does not build character. Bullying is a learned behaviour. Children and youth often learn bullying behaviours when they either experience being bullied or see it happening to others. 

Bullying is defined as repeated and hostile or demeaning behaviour by an individual in the school community where the behaviour is intended to cause harm, fear or distress to one or more other individuals in the school community, including psychological harm or harm to an individual’s reputation.

Bullying is different from conflict. When bullying behaviours go unchecked, it sends a message that these behaviours are acceptable. It is key then that bullying behaviours are reported, addressed and resolved.

Maintaining a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe school environment is a responsibility – one shared by students, parents, teachers, staff and trustees.

Four Common Types of Bullying

  1. Physical: Physical bullying includes pushing, hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching or damaging property.
     
  2. Verbal: Verbal bullying includes name-calling, insults, threats, intimidation, homophobic or racist remarks or verbal abuse.
     
  3. Social and Emotional: Social and emotional bullying, also called "relational bullying," includes behavioural actions designed to harm a child’s reputation or cause humiliation. This includes lying and spreading rumours, negative facial gestures, playing mean jokes to embarrass or humiliate a child, mimicking the child in a mean way, encouraging social exclusion of a child, etc.
     
  4. Cyber: Cyber bullying includes taunting, humiliation, threats or harrassment using the computer or other technology. This includes through social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or the Internet, cruel websites targeting specific youth, humiliating others while playing online games, verbal or emotional bullying through chat rooms, instant message or text, posting photos of other youth on rating websites, etc.

Bullying Risk Factors

Victims of bullying often have things in common with each other. The same is true of children who are bullies themselves. Identifying risk factors early can help prevent bullying behaviour and may reduce the risk of escalation if it does occur.

Children who are bullied may exhibit some of these risk factors:

  • Perceived as being different from their peers, like being over or underweight, being new to a school, wearing clothes that are different or aren’t what kids consider "cool"
  • Perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
  • Depressed, anxious or have low self-esteem
  • Less popular than others and have fewer friends
  • Have overprotective or restrictive parents

Children who bully often experience power and aggression from those close to them, and learn to use this to control others. They may have:

  • Parents who show power and aggression by yelling, hitting or rejecting the child
  • Parents who show power and aggression with each other
  • Siblings who may bully the child at home
  • Friends who bully and are aggressive
  • Trouble standing up to peer pressure
  • Teachers or coaches who show power and aggression by yelling, excluding, etc.

Effects of Bullying

The effects of bullying on children can be traumatic and long lasting. Common effects on victims of bullying include the following:

  • Depression (including sadness, loss of interest in activities)
  • Anxiety (tenseness, fear and worries)
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Increased levels of aggressive behaviour
  • Health problems like headaches, stomach aches
  • Loneliness and social anxiety
  • Missing school
  • Social withdrawal and isolation

Some adults who were bullied in their youth report extended psychological harm into adulthood, like continued distress, self-blame, fear and internalized problems like depression.

There are also effects on the children or youth who bully. They not only have problems with peer relationships, they are also at risk for many other behaviour and relationship problems as they get older, including:

  • Aggression
  • Sexual harassment
  • Dating aggression
  • Delinquency
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Gang involvement

Bullies and Bystanders

Bullying almost always happens in front of other kids, who are called bystanders.

Bullying is not a normal or natural part of childhood. Children and youth learn to bully – often when they themselves have been bullied or see it happening to others. When bullying occurs without consequence, children and youth see bullying behaviours as acceptable.

Reasons why a child might engage in bullying behaviour include the following:

  • Poor behaviour modelled at home by parents, siblings or other adults in their lives
  • Poor behaviour modelled in the community or in school by their peers
  • Attempt to gain social power and/or protect their prestige among peers
  • Attempt to deflect taunting and aggression directed at them 
  • Lack of warmth and true involvement from their parents
  • Harsh physical discipline from their parents
  • Overly-permissive parenting
  • Lack of self-confidence

The Bystander

There are two types of bystanders – the hurtful and the helpful.

Hurtful Bystanders: Those who support the bullying by laughing, cheering, taking videos or making comments that encourage the bully. Forwarding cruel photos, videos or texts and visiting websites that target a specific youth also encourage the bully. They may also join in on the bullying once it begins. Hurtful bystanders can also include those who simply watch and say or do nothing – they give the bully the audience he/she craves, and silently allows the bully to continue with his/her hurtful behaviour. Even “liking” a cruel comment on a YouTube video or on Facebook is wrong – it’s just as bad as writing it.

Helpful Bystanders: Those who directly intervene by discouraging the bully, defending the victim or redirecting the situation away from bullying. Helpful bystanders may also rally support from their peers to stand up against bullying or report the bullying to adults. This could also be as simple as telling the bully to "leave him/her alone" or "cut it out".

Bullying vs. Conflict

Bullying is different from conflict. All inappropriate and hurtful behaviour needs to be addressed, and it is important to identify what the behaviour is in order to resolve the situation effectively. 

Bullying: Repeated and hostile or demeaning behaviour by an individual where the behaviour is intended to cause harm, fear or distress to one or more individuals, including psychological harm or harm to an individual’s reputation. Bullying is not a normal part of growing up and it does not build character. Bullying is a learned behaviour.

Conflict: A disagreement or struggle over opposing beliefs, needs, feelings or actions. Conflict is a normal part of life. Students as well as adults can benefit from learning how to resolve conflict peacefully and recognize the different betweeen conflict and bullying.