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What is bullying?

Today is Pink Shirt day! An initiative started by two Nova Scotia teens as a protest against a bullying incident at their high school. Bullying Canada is a national anti-bullying charitable organization, dedicated to create awareness amongst youth and encourage them to speak out about bullying and victimization. Rob Frenette, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Bullying Canada shares his thoughts on exactly what bullying is, and how to stop it.

Youths know that bullying isn’t only physical, but emotional. Youths know that bullying is deadly.

Rob Frenette, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Bullying Canada.

Rob Frenette, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Bullying Canada.

Bullying is wrong! It is behaviour that makes the person being bullied feel afraid or uncomfortable, and even though many children see it every day, there are many ways that young people bully each other – even if they don’t realize it at the time. What may seem like harmless “teasing” can in fact leave individuals feeling vulnerable and worthless. The facts don’t lie:

  • Approximately one in 10 children have bullied others and as many as 25% of children in grades four to six have been bullied.
  • One in seven Canadian children aged 11 to 16 are victims of bullying.
  • Bullying occurs once every seven minutes on the playground and once every 25 minutes in the classroom.
  • In most cases, bullying stops within 10 seconds when peers intervene, or do not support the bullying behaviour.
  • There is a correlation between increased supervision and decreased bullying. Bullies stop when adults are around.

The four most common types of bullying are:

Verbal bullying – name-calling, sarcasm, teasing, spreading rumours, threatening, making negative references to one’s culture, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, unwanted sexual comments.

Social Bullying – mobbing, scapegoating, excluding others from a group, humiliating others with public gestures or graffiti intended to put others down.

Physical Bullying – hitting, poking, pinching, chasing, shoving, coercing, destroying or stealing belongings, unwanted sexual touching.

Cyber Bullying – using the internet or text messaging to intimidate, put-down, spread rumours or make fun of someone.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths about how bullying should be handled. Bullying is a reality that faces many youth today and complaints of bullying shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed.

Myth #1 – “Children have got to learn to stand up for themselves.” 
Children who get up the courage to complain about being bullied are saying they’ve tried and can’t cope with the situation on their own. Treat their complaints as a call for help. In addition to offering support, it can be helpful to provide children with problem solving and assertiveness training to assist them in dealing with difficult situations.

Myth #2 – “It builds character.”
Children who are bullied repeatedly, have low self-esteem and do not trust others. Bullying damages a person’s self-concept.

Myth #3 – “That’s not bullying. They’re just teasing.”
Vicious taunting hurts and should be stopped.

Myth #5 – “Kids will be kids.”
Bullying is a learned behaviour. Children may be imitating aggressive behaviour they have seen on television, in movies or at home. 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.

Bullying is painful and humiliating, and kids who are bullied feel embarrassed, battered and shamed. By speaking out and bringing awareness to bullying, we can make a difference.

For more information about bullying, Bullying Canada and how you can help, visit www.bullyingcanada.ca.