Originally published: February 2021

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Bullying is aggressive behaviour meant to cause harm, fear, or distress. It’s often about social power, where one person has real or perceived power over another. It can take many forms, including cyberbullying—using technology to bully, like by spreading rumours or sharing hurtful messages or pictures.

Teens who are seen as different—in any way—are at higher risk of being bullied. Bullying can have negative mental health impacts for both those who bully and those who are targets of bullying. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important that we work together to prevent and address bullying among people exposed to the virus, those who must stay home, and those experiencing heightened discrimination.

Bullying is never okay. It’s not a normal part of growing up. As a parent or caregiver, here are some important ways to prevent and address bullying.

Talk about it:

  • Ask your teen about bullying at school, online and other places. Talk with them about their online activities. If you think your teen might be a target of bullying, ask them—“are you ever bullied?”
  • Check in with your teen often and try to keep lines of communication open. Encourage them to share their thoughts,feelings, and experiences. Tell your teen you’re here to support and help them.

Show them you care:

  • Set guidelines, limits, and consequences for unacceptable behaviour.
  • Encourage positive behaviour and empathy.
  • Role model healthy relationships. Reflect on how you treat others, and how they treat you.
    • When your teen has problems, help them come up with solutions—try not to step in and solve things for them.

Take reports of bullying seriously and recognize the courage that it takes for teens to report or talk about bullying. Watch for warning signs:

Signs your teen may be a target of bullying:

  • Fear of going to school, skipping or making excuses to avoid school
  • Changes in school performance
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Lost or damaged personal belongings
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Becoming withdrawn, unhappy or irritable
  • Making negative comments
  • Talking about suicide

Signs your teen may be bullying others:

  • Having extra money or new things
  • Talking about taunting or teasing others
  • Laughing or not caring if others are hurt
  • Aggression with others
  • Leaving others out

Offer help:

  • Teach your teen not to fight back if they experience bullying. Instead, practice communicating in assertive ways without anger.
  • Help your teen identify safe and trusted adults at school that they can go to.
  • Document concerns you have about bullying and save evidence. Report issues to social media sites and block users who bully.

Connect with others for support:

  • Work with your teen’s school. Let them know right away about bullying situations. Ask your teen who they trust at the school and get those adults involved in addressing concerns.
  • Ask your school about their policies and plans to prevent and address bullying, and get involved where you can.
  • Build connections with the parents and guardians of your teen’s friends so that you can watch for healthy interactions.

As a parent, you aren’t expected to always have the answer! Here are some places to reach out for support:

For more information about bullying:

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