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Understanding bullying

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The national definition of bullying for Australian schools says: 

Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.  Bullying can happen in person or online, via various digital platforms and devices and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert).  Bullying behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time (for example, through sharing of digital records).  Bullying of any form or for any reason can have immediate, medium and long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders. Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying.

Bullying is complex. It resists simplistic ideas and solutions.

Knowing exactly what bullying is and understanding why it happens are critical to finding positive and lasting solutions for everyone involved.

Students can play various roles within the bullying dynamic. Understanding the peer group is central to understanding bullying.

Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term negative impacts on everyone involved, including bystanders.

Intervening appropriately to respond to or prevent bullying is very important. A good starting place for understanding bullying is to ask students. Their ideas may be different from what adults assume. Dealing with bullying involves tapping into their motivations and understandings of the social situation.

The reasons for bullying will be found below the surface by investigating issues of power, norms and social status, tolerance and diversity. Exploring these areas and how they influence students' interactions and behaviour can provide essential insights into the most appropriate responses by parents and carers, and the school.

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Last updated 27 October 2020