Bullying - What Is Bullying?

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.


Bullying is defined as repeated aggression in which there is an imbalance of power between the person who bullies and the person who is victimizedi. Bullying is a type of abuse that takes different forms at different ages. Though this module focuses on bullying between children and youth, bullying can also take place between adults as well as between adults and children.

People who bully use power and aggression to control and distress others, while those who are victimized become increasingly powerless and find themselves trapped in relationships in which they are being abused.

Which Children and Youth are at Risk?

All children and youth are at risk of being impacted by bullying. Those who are marginalized in society may be at higher risk for victimization, which in turn can cause them to engage in bullying behaviour. This includes children and youth who:

  • are racial, ethnic, and religious minorities
  • are sexual minorities
  • are economically disadvantaged
  • have any notable differences from the “norm”

The Many Forms of Bullying

Physical bullying includes behaviours such as hitting, kicking, shoving, spitting, beating up, stealing, or damaging property.

Verbal bullying includes name-calling, mocking, hurtful teasing, humiliating or threatening someone, racist comments, or sexual harassment.

Social bullying includes behaviours such as rolling your eyes or turning away from someone, excluding others from the group, gossiping or spreading rumours, setting others up to look foolish, and damaging friendships.

Electronic or Cyber bullying includes the use of email, cell phones, text messages, and internet sites to threaten, harass, embarrass, socially exclude, or damage reputations and friendships.

Racial bullying includes behaviours such as treating people badly because of their racial or ethnic background, saying bad things about a cultural background, calling someone racist names, or telling racist jokes.

Religious bullying includes treating people badly, calling someone names, or saying bad things because of their religious background or beliefs.

Sexual bullying includes behaviours such as: making someone feel badly or uncomfortable because of their gender or sexual orientation; making sexist or homophobic comments or jokes; touching, pinching or grabbing someone in a sexual way; making crude comments about someone’s sexual behaviour.

bullying includes behaviours such as: making someone feel badly or uncomfortable because of a disability; making comments or jokes to hurt someone with a disability.

A Few Words on Cyber Bullying

Although the Web can be very empowering and enabling space for children and youth, the increase in prominence of social networks puts them at risk of being bullied online.

Online bullying, or cyber bullying, is a phenomena that is growing quickly, can be very damaging, and is poorly understood. A recent study of 2,700 children and 700 parents illustrates the degree to which adults underestimate the problem:

  • When asked about cyber bullying, 49% percent of children said they had been cyber bullied, while only 17% of the parents said their child had been cyber-bullied.
  • Similarly, when asked whether they had bullied others online, 33% of children said yes, while only 5% of parents said their child had bullied others online.

Access to communications technology gives children new and unique opportunities for both positive and problematic or abusive interactions with peersii. It’s important to talk with your mentee about the risks and impact of cyber bullying, and to keep the lines of communication open should an incident occur.