Upset child


Bullying is an intentional aggressive behaviour intended to cause harm. It is repetitive and involves an imbalance of power between the perpetrator (the bully) and the target. It can be direct and involve verbal abuse or physical aggression, or indirect and involve social isolation, defamation, and rumour spreading. Bullying occurs across all ages, socioeconomic classes, races, and cultures.

Bullying can have a strong and lasting impact for victims and perpetrators into adulthood. The effects can be:
  • Psychological: increased levels of depression and anxiety
  • Social: self-isolation, being ostracised or losing social relations
  • Physiological: increased stress levels, somatic complains (headache or stomach-ache), distress, bodily harm.
  • Academic: causing low academic performance or school avoidance
How to Spot Bullying?

The following is a list of warning signsfor parents and teachers that may indicate if a child is a target of bullying:

  • Often complaining of headaches or illnesses—these headaches or illnesses may be faked to avoid situations where they are being victimized
  • Unexplainable changes in eating habits (e.g., binge eating, restricted eating, or being unusually hungry from skipping lunch)
  • Difficulties with falling or staying asleep or increased nightmares that interrupt sleep
  • Increased frequency of school absences
  • Declining grades or a loss of interest in schoolwork
  • Sudden, and potentially unexplainable, loss of friends (children might be afraid that their own friends are bullied as well, so they stop seeing them)
  • Frequent avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviours including negative self-talk, self-harm behaviour, running away from home, or talking about suicide
  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed possessions or property (jewellery, clothing, books, or electronics)
It is therefore important that parents and teachers look out for warning signs that a child might be bullying others:
  • Frequently being involved with physical altercations or verbal fights, or becoming increasingly aggressive
  • Having friends that are involved in bullying situations
  • Frequently getting in trouble at school (discipline referrals,) being unable to explain extra money or new belongings
  • Frequently blaming others for problems that they are involved in or not accepting responsibility for their actions
  • Being overly competitive or worrying about their reputation or popularity
What can you do?

If you are a young person and feel that you are being bullied, you can use the following guidelines to take action:

  • Tell a parent or a teacher. Parents and teachers want to know what is going on and how you feel about it. You are not “telling tales”; this is serious and you need to take action.
  • If the bullying happens at school, or on your way to and from school, have a parent discuss it with your teacher (not with the parents of the bully).
  • If a bully is picking on any physical, mental, or social differences you have from others, do not feel ashamed of any them. Everyone is different. You are unique and our differences should be embraced and celebrated. Everyone deserves kindness and respect - including you.
  • Increase your confidence. Stand with your head high and shoulders back. Focus on what brings you joy. Participate in activities that make you feel confident and happy. The more confident you become, the less the bullying will affect you.
  • Try not to engage with the bully, as you can get in trouble or get hurt. Walk away calmly. If you fear being hurt physically, make sure that you tell a trusted adult that you feel a threat. As ABA suggests, “Think about other ways you can respond to bullying. For example, practice saying ‘I don’t like it when you say that/do that – Stop.' Think about other people who can help you if you are being bullied – this could be other classmates, or a teacher.” You are stronger when you are part of a group.
  • If a bully hurts your feelings, remember that this is most likely what they were intending to do. Do not let these words get to you as they are designed to hurt not help. Talk to a trusted friend about how you feel and surround yourself with people that appreciate and respect you. They will balance this opinion at the very least.
  • Contact We Are Stronger charity about bullying prevention programs and find out how your school could participate.
If you are a teacher:
  • Remember to model and teach respectful behaviours, tolerance, and kindness. This also means not letting your personal opinions and bias get the better of you when interacting with children. Children and young people will pick up on this and it will manifest themselves in their peer-to-peer relationships.
  • Createan environment that cultivates responsible and socially aware students and make it clear that bullying is not toleratedin your class. School procedures should exist in every school, by law, and you should be aware of them.
  • Address bullying with the entire class and highlight the importance and responsibility of all children to stop harassment and intimidation. Allow children to trust that they can tell you when they or their peers are confronted by bullying. Provide a calm and safe environment to do that. Help the child to draw and write what happened, to keep evidence. Explain the difference between bullying and other disagreements.
  • Provide support for children that are at risk of being marginalized or of becoming a bully. Offerthem the possibility of checking in with a trusted adult or counsellorthat could also become a role modelfor them. Ask them to participate in school and after school activities.
Upset child


Cyberbullying is any type of bullying that involves electronic media: sending or posting harmful text or images using mobile phones or other devices through e-mail, chat rooms, social media sites, instant messaging etc. It involves a power imbalance, sometimes in the form of a difference in technical expertise. It can have a wider audience than regular bullying and is repetitive, as many people can see a posting multiple times (e.g. image, video, text).

This type of bullying is especially problematic because:
  • It is available 24hrs/day, so the bullying is continuous
  • It can be difficult to identify the aggressors
  • It can be difficult for your people to separate their private life from Internet life (e.g. social media accounts). Bullying can happen in school and filter online, or it can happen outside school and affect school life.
  • It can be difficult to remove harmful materials on the Internet that can be accessible for long periods of time. Young people can be fearful to tell adults, because they may fear they are to blame or their mobile phone use may be restricted, causing a loss of empowerment and further social estrangement.
Personal Consideration

Almost anyone can become subjected to cyber bullying. It is the improper and malicious use of the Internet. It may have its origins outside the Internet, however you can try and reduce your risk of being bullied online by thinking before you send or share personal information and images online. Make sure that you are not sending anything that might be of detriment to you, your reputation or others. Ask yourself if you would be proud to look back at what you shared? If you put out positive images and words then, you are offering something positive to the online community, not of detriment.

Tips on what to do if it happens to you:

  • Do not retaliate as this might increase the harassment, and make it unclear as to who started it.
  • Make a copy of the harmful material, to use as proof if needed.
  • Block the communications and ignore them if possible.
  • Contact the website, Internet service provider (ISP), or mobile phone company and file a complaint. Seek help from a responsible adult (parent, teacher or other).
  • The police should be contacted if there is any breach in law (e.g. threatening behaviour, data protection).
Legal advice
Tips on what parents can do*:
  • Parents should know what cyber bullying is, the consequences it can have and how to intervene.
  • Parent should try and acquire, if not already have a basic internet knowledge about passwords, cyber security, and how to establish privacy settings.
  • Small children should use Internet in a central place in the house, where parents can supervise what they are doing. Consider installing parental control filtering software and/or tracking programs, but do not rely solely on these tools.
  • With young people, parents should have conversations about who are they seeing over the Internet, what sites are they using, and discuss safety issues.Talk often about Internet appropriate behaviour and etiquette, and consequences when these are not respected.
  • Encourage children to notify adults immediately in case of cyber bullying and when they receive inappropriate Internet content.
  • Beware of warning signs that might indicate the child is being bullied, such as reluctance to use the computer, a change in the child’s behaviour and mood, and/or reluctance to go to school.
Tips on what teachers can do*:
  • Faculty and staff should be trained in early warning signs that may identify victims of cyber bullying such as rejection or isolation from peers and being the focus of more traditional forms of bullying. They should be aware and looking for the circulation of pictures, video clips, sound files, and any other items.
  • Teach students the basic rules for a responsible use of technology.
  • Review written policies related to students’ use of the Internet and mobile communication devices to ensure that they address cyber bullying in a comprehensive way.School policies should provide a clear procedure to follow for any report of cyber bullying that raises concerns about the possibility of violence or suicide.
*Extracts from NASP, Cyber bullying: Intervention and Prevention Strategies BY TED FEINBERG, EDD, NCSP, National Association of School Psychologists, Bethesda, MD NICOLE ROBEY, MA, Cumberland County Schools, MD