Defining bullying

Bullying is defined by three key features:

  • it involves a misuse of power in a relationship
  • it is ongoing and repeated
  • it involves behaviours that can cause harm.

Having a disagreement with a friend, or a single incident or argument is not defined as bullying. These behaviours may be upsetting, and should be resolved, but they are not bullying.

Physical and verbal bullying, such as kicking or name calling can be easy to see (overt). Other types of bullying, such as social exclusion or spreading rumours are not as easy to see (covert).

A person can be bullied about many different things such as ​how they look, sound or speak; their background, religion, race or culture including being Aboriginal; they have a disability; their sex; being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI); their size or body shape; their schoolwork, hobbies or achievements; or other ways they may be different.

Bullying can also happen online using technology such as the internet or mobile devices. This is also called cyberbullying.

Anti-bullying information for parents and carers - Fact sheet and tips

Download our parents and carers tips on bullying – what it is and what you can do if your child has been bullied.

This fact sheet is available in 35 community languages.

Screen shot of the fact sheet (available in 36 community languages).

How can I tell if my child is involved in bullying?

Children who are bullied or are bullying others may respond and act differently.

Your child’s behaviour and mood can change for a variety of reasons. Be alert to the possibility that the change may be related to bullying.

You may notice your child:

  • doesn't want to go to school or participate in school activities
  • changes their route to school or becomes frightened of walking to school
  • drops in academic performance
  • changes sleeping or eating patterns
  • has frequent tears, anger, mood swings or anxiety
  • takes money from home
  • has unexplained bruises, cuts or scratches
  • loses or brings home damaged belongings or clothes
  • asks for extra pocket money or food
  • arrives home hungry.

The signs of online bullying can be the same as signs of other bullying but may include other behaviours with phones and computers. For example, your child may:

  • be hesitant about going online
  • seem nervous when an instant message, text message or email appears
  • be visibly upset after using the computer or mobile phone, or suddenly avoid it
  • close a laptop or hide a mobile phone when others enter the room
  • spend unusually long hours online.

Often children do not report bullying to their parents. This may be because they are afraid of upsetting their parents, feeling ashamed, afraid of making things worse, or worried that they may lose privileges such as access to the internet.

Adapted with permission from Bullying. No Way!. Visit the website to learn more about bullying.

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