Bully Free Alberta


What is bullying ?
What are the effects of bullying ?
How common is bullying ?
What are the myths about bullying ?
What is Alberta doing ?

What is bullying?

Many children have a good idea of what bullying is because they see it every day! Bullying happens when someone hurts or scares another person on purpose and the person being bullied has a hard time defending themselves. So, everyone needs to get involved to help stop it.

Bullying is wrong! It is behaviour that makes the person being bullied feel afraid or uncomfortable. There are many ways that young people bully each other, even if they don't realize it at the time. Some of these include:

  • Punching, shoving and other acts that hurt people physically

  • Spreading bad rumours about people

  • Keeping certain people out of a group

  • Teasing people in a mean way

  • Getting certain people to "gang up" on others


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.



What are the effects of bullying?

Bullying makes people upset. It can make children feel lonely, unhappy and frightened. It can make them feel unsafe and think there must be something wrong with them. Children can lose confidence and may not want to go to school anymore. It may even make them sick.

Some people think bullying is just part of growing up and a way for young people to learn to stick up for themselves. But bullying can have long-term physical and psychological consequences. Some of these include:

Withdrawal from family and school activities, wanting to be left alone.

  • Shyness

  • Stomachaches

  • Headaches

  • Panic Attacks

  • Not being able to sleep

  • Sleeping too much

  • Being exhausted

  • Nightmares


If bullying isn't stopped, it also hurts the bystanders, as well as the person who bullies others. Bystanders are afraid they could be the next victim. Even if they feel badly for the person being bullied, they avoid getting involved in order to protect themselves or because they aren't sure what to do.

Children who learn they can get away with violence and aggression continue to do so in adulthood. They have a higher chance of getting involved in dating aggression, sexual harassment and criminal behaviour later in life.

Bullying can have an effect on learning

Stress and anxiety caused by bullying and harassment can make it more difficult for kids to learn. It can cause difficulty in concentration and decrease their ability to focus, which affects their ability to remember things they have learned.

Bullying can lead to more serious concerns

Bullying is painful and humiliating, and kids who are bullied feel embarrassed, battered and shamed. If the pain is not relieved, bullying can even lead to consideration of suicide or violent behaviour.



How common is bullying?

Approximately one in 10 children have bullied others and as many as 25% of children in grades four to six have been bullied. A 2004 study published in the medical Journal of Pediatrics found that about one in seven Canadian children aged 11 to 16 are victims of bullying. Studies have found bullying occurs once every seven minutes on the playground and once every 25 minutes in the classroom.

In the majority of cases, bullying stops within 10 seconds when peers intervene, or do not support the bullying behaviour.

Students are most vulnerable to bullying during transitions from elementary to junior high school, and from junior to senior high school.

There is a correlation between increased supervision and decreased bullying. Bullies stop when adults are around.



What are the myths about bullying?


Myth #1 - "Children have got to learn to stand up for themselves."

Reality - 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 - "Children should hit back - only harder."

Reality - This could cause serious harm. People who bully are often bigger and more powerful than their victims. This also gives children the idea that violence is a legitimate way to solve problems. Children learn how to bully by watching adults use their power for aggression. Adults have the opportunity to set a good example by teaching children how to solve problems by using their power in appropriate ways.

Myth #3 - "It builds character."

Reality - Children who are bullied repeatedly, have low self-esteem and do not trust others. Bullying damages a person's self-concept.

Myth #4 - "Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you."

Reality - Scars left by name-calling can last a lifetime.

Myth #5 - "That's not bullying. They're just teasing."

Reality - Vicious taunting hurts and should be stopped.

Myth #6 - "There have always been bullies and there always will be."

Reality - By working together as parents, teachers and students we have the power to change things and create a better future for our children. As a leading expert, Shelley Hymel, says, "It takes a whole nation to change a culture". Let's work together to change attitudes about bullying. After all, bullying is not a discipline issue - it is a teaching moment.

Myth #7 - "Kids will be kids."

Reality - Bullying is a learned behaviour. Children may be imitating aggressive behaviour they have seen on television, in movies or at home. Research shows that 93% of video games reward violent behaviour. Additional findings show that 25% of boys aged 12 to 17 regularly visit gore and hate internet sites, but that media literacy classes decreased the boys' viewing of violence, as well as their acts of violence in the playground. 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.



What is Alberta doing?

One of the top priorities of the Alberta Government is to create a province free from family violence and bullying.

The Alberta Roundtable on Family Violence and Bullying was held May 7, 2004 in Calgary after Premier Ralph Klein called for a roundtable to address the issue. Prior to the roundtable, government heard from approximately 3,500 Albertans through workshops, focus groups, questionnaires, the My Alberta contest for youth and a pre-roundtable seminar.

An action report was compiled based on what was heard at the roundtable. The Finding Solutions Together report highlights activities that are currently underway and also outlines government's long-term objectives that will be explored as part of the regular business planning process in upcoming months.

The report identifies five key areas for action: social change; provincial leadership; a collaborative, coordinated community response; services and supports; accountability. It confirms government's commitment to work with individuals, families and communities to find solutions to end family violence and bullying together.

Bullying Consultations

As a part of the consultative process on the roundtable on family violence and bullying, bullying focus groups were held in Lethbridge (January 2004), Red Deer (February 2004) and Slave Lake (April 2004). Common themes emerged:

  • Define "bullying" and build awareness in schools, sports, public venues, broader society;

  • Demonstrate government leadership in sending a consistent message that bullying is not socially acceptable;

  • Develop a strategy to collect and share information and resources on family violence and bullying to all stakeholders;

  • Develop a way to share stories of Albertans who are dealing effectively with bullying in their communities;

  • Develop a "clearinghouse" of speakers, resources, materials and "best practices" and provide easy access to all stakeholders;

  • Build upon Alberta Education curriculum (i.e. Safe and Caring Schools , Effective Behaviour Supports and Roots of Empathy);

  • Engage youth in mentorship programs;

  • Build on a holistic approach to address bullying in Aboriginal Communities; and

  • Develop and provide ongoing cross-sector training at the pre-service and in-service level to service providers, parents, families and the community.


In keeping with priorities set out in the Provincial Roundtable on Family Violence and Bullying, a provincial Prevention of Bullying Strategy has been developed. The strategy is targeted at preventing and stopping bullying and promoting positive behaviour and attitudes within and between individuals, families and groups.

The Prevention of Bullying Strategy is lead by the Alberta Children and Youth Initiative (ACYI), a collaborative partnership of government ministries working together on children and youth issues. The strategy builds on successful approaches such as Safe and Caring Schools, Effective Behaviour Supports, Roots of Empathy and a multitude of community-based programs and services. The goal is to raise awareness of what bullying is, identify what people can do to stop it, and encourage a change in societal attitudes towards bullying.




Call the Bullying Helpline 1-888-456-2323 toll-free in Alberta, anytime.
Trained staff are available to help in more than 170 languages.

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