How does bullying happen?

Bullying and cyberbullying happen in four main ways - often repeatedly and in combination

  • Physical bullying, when a student uses physical force to hurt another student by hitting, pushing, shoving, kicking, taking a student’s belongings or stealing their money.
  • Verbal bullying, when a student uses words or gestures to humiliate another student by threatening, taunting, intimidating, insulting, sarcasm, name-calling, teasing, slurs, graffiti, put-downs and ridicule.
  • Relational bullying, when a student isolates another student from their peer group through leaving them out, gossiping, spreading rumors and scapegoating.
  • Cyberbullying, when a student uses a cell-phone, text messages, e-mails, instant messaging, chats and social media to bully another student in any of the ways described above.  It includes breaking into a student’s electronic account and assuming that student’s identity in order to damage their reputation.

The costs of bullying

The impacts of bullying are painful and often enduring.

  • Bullying can cause its targets physical harm and leave long-lasting mental health effects similar to child abuse in severity and long-term persistence, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, shame and suicidal ideation. 
  • Students who bully are at increased risk of school absenteeism, drug abuse and criminality.
  • Bullying is part of a continuum of violence.  Unless interrupted, students who bully in the middle years of school are more likely to engage in dating violence, and sexual harassment in the final years of school and beyond.
  • Bullying brings massive social costs.  Particularly at risk are students from minority races and religions, LGBTQ youth, students with physical and mental disabilities.  As nations across the world struggle to affirm social justice and integrate immigrant youth, bullying remains the vehicle by which diverse youth are isolated and marginalized.