What is bullying?

Bullying is when someone uses their power to hurt, frighten, exclude, or insult someone. It is always done on purpose and is usually repeated. 

The say it's just teasing, but it still hurts.


  • Usually happens between peers
  • Is often part of a pattern
    (i.e. it happens more than once)
  • Is never okay (even if the person doing the bullying may think and say ‘it’s just a joke’)

Here are some things to know about bullying:

  • There are different kinds of bullying.
  • Physical bullying involves hitting, shoving, pushing, tripping, and other kinds of force.
  • Emotional or psychological bullying involves hurtful comments, name-calling, teasing.
  • Social bullying involves excluding or ostracizing someone from a friend group, spreading rumours, or “the silent treatment”.
  • Discriminatory bullying targets people because of their sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, or other things that are perceived to make them “different”.
  • Cyberbullying happens over cellphones or the internet.
  • Bullying often involves the abuse of social power (popularity, influence) to harm a person or their reputation.
  • Anyone can bully you, including a friend or sibling.
  • Bullying can affect a person’s feelings, relationships, self-esteem, and sense of safety. Bullying can also affect how a person does at school.
  • Some kinds of bullying are hard to spot. If you are questioning whether you’re dealing with bullying or not, pay attention to your feelings. Does whatever’s happening make you feel hurt, insulted, threatened, or embarrassed? If yes, you might be dealing with a bullying situation.

Whatever you’re going through, know that bullying does not have to be part of your life, or anyone else’s. Read on to find out ways to deal if you are being bullied.

Discriminatory Bullying

Discriminatory bullying happens when someone is bullied because they are seen as belonging to a certain group. In discriminatory bullying, someone is targeted because of things they can’t change, such as:

  • ethnicity
  • skin colour
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity
  • weight
  • appearance
  • disability
  • nationality

Discriminatory bullying can be especially harmful because it attacks someone because of who they are. It’s never ok. It’s everyone’s human right to be free from this sort of violence.

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Last Reviewed October 2012 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team

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