How to recognize and stop bullying — tips from AboutKidsHealth

Over the next few months, CAPHC Conversations will be featuring articles and resources from the AboutKidsHealth website.  For more information on AboutKidsHealth, check out their website, or contact Sean Schurr at

Come September, it is time for kids to head back to school. While it can be exciting for children to see their school friends after the summer, the schoolyard can also be a prime location for bullying.

What is bullying?

Bullying is intentional and repeated mean behaviour. A bully is looking to hurt the person that they are bullying, and often gets together with a group of children to bully one person.  Bullies hold more power than those they bully — for instance, they could be older or physically bigger and stronger than those they target.

Bullying can come in many forms, including physical, social and cyber bullying.

Physical bullying can consist of:

  • pushing, hitting, or kicking
  • breaking someone’s things
  • teasing, insulting and making fun of people
  • threatening to hurt someone.

Social bullying can include:

  • spreading rumours
  • breaking up friendships
  • purposely excluding or telling people not to be friends with someone.

Cyber bullying can be:

  • photographing someone without permission; posting mean photos and messages on social media
  • sending mean e-mails, text messages, or messages on social media.

Other forms of bullying include racial/ethnic or sexual bullying.

Why do children bully?

Bullying is often a learned behavior. Children who bully may think that they can use power and aggression to control others because they have experienced power and aggression from family members, friends, teachers or coaches. Many bullies model behavior after their parents, who may yell, hit or reject them in some way to demonstrate power and aggression. A bully may also have parents who model power and aggression towards each other, or have a sibling that bullies them at home.

Bullies tend to pick on children that don’t have many friends, or those that have overprotective parents that restrict their behaviour. Children that are bullied must get help shifting power dynamics so they can avoid being in abusive relationships in future.

How to prevent bullying

It is important for children who are bullied to report bullying. Parents need to show an interest in their child’s experiences so their child feels comfortable telling them if they are being bullied.

Children who are bullied need protection from not only their bullies, but also the bystanders who enable the bullying by watching or joining in. It is crucial for children who are bullied to be supported by their parents, teachers and peers at school, and other adults in their lives.

If a child is being bullied, they should be taught ways to anticipate bullying so they are prepared to either address or avoid their bullies entirely. It is also beneficial for children who are bullied to be put in situations where they can make new friends.

AboutKidsHealth is SickKids’ patient-education website and features more than 3,500 articles on a range of paediatric health topics. For more information on how to stop bullying and other topics, please visit


The CAPHC team is always interested in learning more about what is happening in the paediatric health care community. If you have a program, event, website, or initiative that you would like to share with the country, email for more information.