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Pink Shirt Day (Anti-Bullying Day)

February 22, 2023, 11:00 a.m. (EST)

Pink Shirt Day (or Anti-Bullying Day) is observed in Canada and in other parts of the world on February 22. In fact, the initiative started here in Canada in 2007, when twelfth-grade students bought and distributed 50 pink shirts after a fellow student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt in Cambridge, Nova Scotia.

Seven in 10 youth experience some form of bullying

According to the 2019 Canadian Health Survey on Children and Youth (CHSCY), the majority of Canadian youth aged 12 to 17 (71%) reported experiencing at least one form of bullying in the past twelve months. Bullying is a form of aggression where there is a power imbalance; it is behaviour that makes the person being bullied feel afraid, alone or uncomfortable.

Among youth who experienced bullying, about two in five (42%) reported experiencing it monthly or more frequently, while 58% reported experiencing bullying a few times a year.

Bullying takes many forms, including physical, verbal, social or relational, and cyberbullying.

The most common form of bullying reported by youth was being made fun of, called names or insulted (59%), followed by rumours being spread by others (34%), and being excluded from activities (32%).

Increased risk of cyberbullying among youth

Internet use is a major part of everyday life for young Canadians. The 2019 CHSCY asked youth how often they go online for social networking, video or instant messaging, and online gaming. The majority (about 80%) said they went online at least weekly, with 60% saying they visited social network platforms several times a day and just over 50% reporting that they used video or instant messenger apps at this same level of frequency. Such online activity can put young people at an increased risk of cyberbullying.

In 2019, one in four teens (25%) aged 12 to 17 reported experiencing cyberbullying in the previous year. Being threatened or insulted online or by text messages was the most common form, at 16%. This was followed by being purposefully excluded from an online community (13%) and having hurtful information posted on the Internet (9%). 

Among those aged 12 to 17, rates of cyberbullying increased with age, rising from 20% at age 12 to 27% by age 17. This upswing could reflect increased Internet use—specifically social media usage—with age. The largest increase in cyberbullying prevalence related to being threatened or insulted online or by text messages (from 11% at age 12 to 19% at age 17).

Bullying and health

Despite the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” data suggest that this is not the case, with bullying shown to have impacts on both mental and physical health.

Among youth who reported experiencing at least one type of bullying monthly or more frequently in 2019, almost 3 in 4 (72%) said their lives were stressful (a bit stressful, quite a bit stressful or extremely stressful). By comparison, 59% of those who experienced bullying a few times a year and 44% of those who did not experience bullying indicated that their lives were stressful.

Youth who experienced bullying frequently (monthly or more) were also more likely than those who did not experience bullying in the past 12 months to report experiencing frequent (monthly or more) difficulties in getting to sleep (73% vs. 41%), headaches (70% vs. 42%), stomach aches (60% vs. 31%) or backaches (56% vs. 27%).

On Pink Shirt Day—and every day—let’s all do what we can to treat each other with kindness.

For information on how to recognize and prevent bullying, and to learn about bullying prevention programs, click here.

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