What is Bullying?


Type of Resource


Publication Date

September 21, 2023


Online Bullying  

Every child and young person has the right to learn in a safe and healthy environment. Unfortunately, bullying, harassment, and intimidation may happen inside and outside of school, but there are many effective ways to tackle this.

Bullying is harmful behaviours directed at one person or a group. It can include verbal, physical, psychological, or socially harmful behaviours that can inflict harm, stress, and injury.

Online bullying is still bullying, with the added dimension of online harm. Mobile phones, websites, platforms, and gaming devices can all be used to bully someone online.

Bullying can happen once or continue for a long time. It’s also important to remember that anyone can be the victim of bullying.

Acts of bullying:

Online Bullying

The internet has made bullying more complex, because most young people live simultaneously in the real world and the online world. Where bullying used to stop when school finished, it can now continue online after school.

Bullying is not new, and the internet did not create the problem. But the anonymity of online environments can increase the opportunity for people to bully, intimidate, harass, and upset others. According to Ofcom, 84% of children aged 8-17 who have experienced bullying experienced online, versus 61% of bullying happening in person.

When young people are bullied online, it can feel like there is no break or place to hide. It is also difficult for teachers, parents, and carers to recognise signs of bullying online, because they are not usually part of a young person’s online space.

Online bullying can include:

Why people get bullied

Someone might be bullied based on being different, or on the need for a bully to prove dominance or superiority over them.

They might be bullied based on:

The Impact of Bullying

Bullying is not a normal part of childhood and ignoring it doesn’t always make it stop. Doing so can leave children feeling unheard. It also sends the wrong message that bullying is something to be tolerated.

The long-term impact of bullying on a young person’s physical and mental health and their development can be profound. Victims can be left feeling isolated, lonely, anxious, scared, and vulnerable. In some cases, bullying can lead to mental health and substance misuse issues.

Why young people might not report bullying

Children can feel discouraged from telling someone they trust about bullying for fear of things escalating or from worry or hopelessness that it won’t stop.

Bullying can impact a young person’s self-esteem, leading to feelings of worthlessness and internalised feelings of self-blame, which can discourage them from reporting.

They may also fear the possible reactions of bullies and adults in their life if they tell someone. In some cases, young people can avoid talking about bullying as a way to cope with what’s happening. They could also fear being labelled a snitch/tout/grass and being teased by their peers.

Talking to children in your care about being bullied

They might not use the word bullying when telling you about things that made them sad, upset, or worried at school. If your child confides in you or you suspect something is wrong at school, having a gentle well-planned conversation can help:
Where appropriate, make sure your child feels included in the decision and conversation with teachers about the bullying. Overall, this can promote resilience in young people and help them build trust and confidence with you and other trusted adults in their life.

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