Bullying and cyberbullying

Bullying is an abuse of power by one person to control or distress another. It affects more than 25 percent of children and youth across Ontario.1 Cyber-bullying is the use of the Internet, cell phones, texting and other technologies to send hurtful messages about someone or to someone to intimidate them or cause them harm 2. Because of the omnipresent nature of the internet and cell phones, it’s harder for victims to escape their tormentors; cyber-bullying can unfortunately happen anywhere, anytime 3. Cyberbullying affects more than 20 percent of Ontario youth.1

Bullying is closely associated with mental health issues. It can cause mental health problems and young people may be bullied as a result of their mental health issues.4 Young people who experience bullying show higher levels of depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, suicidal thoughts and low self-esteem. Studies also show that bullying is a major stressor reported by young people who have survived a suicide attempt.4 Though research on cyberbullying is still emerging, studies show similar correlations between cyberbullying, low self-esteem and depression.5

While bullying is often discussed alongside youth suicide, there’s not enough supportive evidence to say that bullying causes youth suicide.6 Media reports often declare bullying as the reason why a youth took their life, but it’s never that simple. However, bullying isn’t a part of normal development. Exposure to bullying is harmful and can increase the risk of suicidal ideation and behaviours in youth.6

What can you do?

It’s essential to address bullying and cyberbullying at the individual, peer group, school and community levels. Community efforts should aim to foster positive relationships among young people and create community infrastructure that is responsive to bullying incidents and intolerant of bullying behaviour.7 While strategies to address cyberbullying are still emerging, many school and community-based programs use education and awareness initiatives to inform children and youth about online dangers, the consequences of participating in cyberbullying behaviour and strategies to block offensive material and involve adults.8


Additional resources

The Centre for Suicide Prevention created information sheets on cyberbullying and Aboriginal youth cyber-bullying.

Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet) provides information about bullying prevention and intervention.

The Registry of Resources for Safe and Inclusive Schools was developed by the Ontario Ministry of Education to identify a variety of local and province-wide bullying prevention and intervention programs.