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What is bullying?

Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious or hidden.

Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.

Some conflicts between children are a normal part of growing up and are to be expected. Single incidents and conflicts or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not considered bullying, even though they may be upsetting and need to be resolved.

Bullying can happen:

  • face-to-face (e.g. pushing, tripping, name-calling)
  • at a distance (e.g. spreading rumours, excluding someone)
  • through information and communications technologies (e.g. use of SMS, email, chat rooms).

Identifying bullying can sometimes be difficult. Bullying is often conducted out of sight of teachers and children may be reluctant to report bullying.

Online bullying (sometimes called cyberbullying) is bullying carried out through the internet or mobile devices. Children who are bullied online are also often bullied face-to-face.

Examples of online bullying include:

  • repeated hang up calls
  • sending insulting or threatening text messages
  • publishing someone's personal or embarrassing information online
  • creating hate sites or starting social exclusion campaigns on social networking sites.

Online bullying is one potential cybersafety issue for children when they use computers and mobile phones. Learn more about cybersafety.

What is harassment? (click to expand)

Harassment occurs when someone is made to feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated because of their:

  • identity, race, culture or ethnic origin
  • religion
  • physical characteristics
  • gender
  • sexual orientation
  • marital, parenting or economic status
  • age
  • ability or disability.

It can include behaviour such as:

  • telling insulting jokes about particular racial groups
  • sending explicit or sexually suggestive emails
  • displaying offensive posters or screen savers
  • making derogatory comments or taunts about someone's race, religion or sexuality.

It may be:

  • an ongoing pattern of behaviour or a single act
  • directed randomly or towards the same person(s)
  • intentional or unintentional.

Discrimination occurs when people are treated less favourably than others because of these characteristics.

What is violence? (click to expand)

Violence is the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against another person(s) that results in psychological harm, injury or in some cases death. It may involve provoked or unprovoked acts and can be a single incident, a random act or can occur over time.