Originally published: February 2024

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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. This could include spreading rumors or sharing hurtful messages or pictures online.

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 bullied.

Bullying is never okay. It’s not a normal part of growing up. As a parent or caregiver, you play an important role in helping to prevent and address bullying. Here’s what you can do.

Talk about it

Open and honest communication with your teenager is important, especially in today's digital age. Take time to ask your teen about their experiences with bullying, whether it's at school, online, or in other places. Ask them about their online activities and friends. If you think they might be a target of bullying, gently ask, "are you ever bullied?"

Check in with your teen often and keep lines of communication open. Encourage them to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Let them know that you're there for them, no matter what.

Watch for warning signs your teen is being bullied

Always take reports of bullying seriously. Recognize the courage it takes to report or talk about bullying.

Here are some 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  • Becoming withdrawn, unhappy or irritable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

Your teen may be a target of cyberbullying if they:

  • Change the amount of time they spend online
  • Avoid talking about their online activities
  • Seem upset after getting online messages
  • Delete social media profiles or block people

Offer support

You know your teen best. If you think they’re being bullied:

  • Empower them to communicate assertively with words (not violence).
  • Encourage them to write down or tell someone what’s going on and save evidence.
  • Help them identify safe, trusted adults they can go to for support (like teachers, coaches, and Elders).
  • Guide them in reporting issues to social media platforms while blocking users who bully others.

Consider if your teen may be bullying others

Bullying is a tough problem that hurts both teens who are bullied and those who are doing the bullying. Here are some 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

As well, your teen may be bullying others online if they’re secretive about their online activities or using multiple email or social media accounts.

Help them stop

If you’re concerned that your teen is bullying others, these actions can help:

  • Set clear guidelines, limits, and consequences for unacceptable behavior.
  • Teach and model the importance of respect and empathy. Help them take responsibility and make amends if they’ve hurt someone.
  • Remind them that bullying others can have severe consequences (like facing criminal charges). Help them reach out to a health professional if they need help to change their behaviour. You can call 811 to speak with a health care professional, 24/7.

Connect with others for support

Work with your teen’s school and let them know right away about bullying situations. Try these tips:

  • Ask your teen who they trust at school and get those adults involved in addressing concerns.
  • Ask teachers and school administrators about their policies and plans to prevent and address bullying. Get involved where you can.
  • Build connections with the parents and guardians of your teen’s friends so that you can watch for healthy or unhealthy interactions.

Remember that as a parent or caregiver, your involvement and support are very important in helping your teen feel safe and secure.

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