Bullying: Myths and Facts

A relationship problem that requires relationship solutions, bullying is a type of abuse that can take different forms at different ages. You’ll find helpful information and useful links in this module.

(For additional information, statistics, and research attributions, please click here...)

Myth: Bullying does not cause any serious harm.

Fact: Bullying is associated with a range of physical and mental health problems, as well as educational problems, antisocial issues, relationship problems, and suicide.

Myth: Children grow out of bullying.

Fact: Without intervention, a significant proportion of youth who bully others in childhood will continue to use their power negatively through adolescence and into adulthood. The nature of bullying changes as children mature. Bullying diversifies into more sophisticated forms of verbal, social, homophobic, and sexually- and racially-based aggression. Destructive lessons learned in childhood about the use of power may translate into sexual harassment in the workplace, dating violence, marital abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse.

Myth: Only a small number of children have problems with bullying.

Fact: Research suggests that in a classroom of 35 students, between 4 and 6 children are bullying and/or are being bulliediii. Many more children observe bullying. At some point, the majority of children will engage in some form of bullying and experience some form of victimization. A small minority of children will have frequent, long-lasting, serious, and pervasive involvement in bullying and/or victimizationiv.

Myth: Oh Canada! Canadians “too nice” to bully.

Fact: Sadly, not true! On the recent World Health Organization Health Behaviours in School-aged Children survey, Canada ranked a dismal 26th and 27th out of 35 countries on measures of bullying and victimization, respectivelyv. Our position on the international stage has slipped relative to other countries. The data suggests that other countries have been preventing bullying problems more effectively than Canada. Data confirms bullying is an important social problem for Canada.

Myth: Children who are victimized need to stand up and fight back.

Fact: Encouraging children who are victimized to fight back may, in fact, make the bullying interaction worse. We know that when children use aggressive strategies to manage bullying situations, they tend to experience prolonged and more severe bullying interactions as a resultvi.

Myth: Reporting bullying will only make the problem worse.

Fact: Given the power imbalance that exists between the child who bullies and the child who is victimized, it is incredibly difficult for children who are being victimized to remove themselves from the destructive relationship. They make numerous attempts to make the bullying stop on their own but these efforts are usually unsuccessful and may make the bullying worse. Adult intervention is required to correct the power imbalance. Children and parents, or other supportive adults, may have to report the bullying to more than one person before the behaviour will stop. We do know that victimized children who told an adult about being bullied reported being less victimized the following year compared to children who did not report being bulliedvii. When no one talks about bullying, children who bully feel they can carry on without consequences. Secrecy empowers children who bully.

Myth: Bullying is a school problem.

Fact: Bullying occurs wherever young people gather (online or in person) to live, learn, or play. Bullying is a community problem, not just a school problem.

Myth: Bullying does not occur within the family or the family home.

Fact: Unfortunately, bullying does occur within families. Repeated aggression within family relationships is most commonly called “abuse” or “family violence”, and within peer relationships it is called “bullying” or “harassment”. The family is the first context in which children learn about relationships, and lessons learned in the family provide the foundation for future relationships. Research shows that there is a developmental connection between experiencing or witnessing abuse in the family, and experiencing or perpetuating bullying and abuse in future relationships.

Myth: If a child or youth denies being bullied, there probably isn’t a problem.

Fact: If you suspect that a child is being bullied, you’re probably right. Children will often deny bullying out of shame or fear.