Fact sheet 20
- Download Fact sheet 20: Bullying
Anyone can be bullied – it’s a lot more common than people think and can happen at school, at home, on the sporting field, at work or online. If you are being bullied, it’s important to remember that you are not to blame, and that there are steps you can take to stop it. Bullying is a serious matter and no one should have to put up with being bullied.
What is bullying?
There are many ways that someone can be bullied. Bullying can be:
- Verbal: including name calling or put downs, threats, teasing and sexual harassment – even if it is done in an indirect or suggestive way. This can also take place online or through mobile phone text messages.
- Physical: including being punched, tripped, kicked or having your belongings stolen or damaged. It might also include sexual abuse.
- Social: including being left out or ignored, or having rumours spread about you. This type of bullying is very common.
- Psychological: this is often less obvious or direct than other forms of bullying. You might be given dirty looks, be stalked or made to feel intimidated.
- Cyberbullying: this is a form of bullying which takes place online, for example via email, chat rooms, discussion groups, online social networking, instant messaging or web pages. This can also take place via mobile phone text messages. For more information, see Youthbeyondblue Fact Sheet 23 – Cyberbullying.
When isn’t it bullying?
Bullying isn’t a one-off incident – a friend being in a bad mood one day, calling you names and then apologising later. It’s when name-calling or threats continue that it becomes bullying.
How bullying affects people?
Bullying can have a serious impact on how someone feels about him/herself. People who are bullied often feel that they are all alone and think there is nothing they can do to change the situation. Ongoing bullying is of great concern. It can lower a person’s self-esteem and lead to feelings of sadness, depression, anger and confusion. If you are being bullied, remind yourself that it’s not your fault and that there is something you can do to stop it. The best place to start is to talk to people you trust – friends, family and teachers – about what is happening to you and to discuss with them some ways of dealing with the problem.
Taking action against bullying
There are many different things you might be able to do if you are being bullied. As long as you don’t feel unsafe or physically threatened, you might try first to work it out yourself. Here are some tips that may be helpful, especially for verbal bullying.
- Ignore the person who is bullying you (including contact with him/her via mobile phone or email) – bullies are looking for a reaction and often lose interest if they don’t get one.
- Stay with others – stick to areas where you feel safe and hang out with people you trust. The person who is bullying you won’t pick on you as much when there are other people around.
- Stay positive and be confident – think of all the things you do well and try not to let the bullying affect your confidence.
- Keep out of the bully’s way – it might be possible for you to avoid the person who is bullying you, for example by travelling a different way to school, or avoiding the places that he/she hangs out.
- Don’t reply to bullying messages – it’ll only get worse if you do. By replying, the bully gets what he or she wants. Often if you don’t reply, the person will leave you alone.
- Ask for help – if the bullying doesn’t stop, you might find it helpful to ask someone else for advice. You should also report it to someone in charge – either at school or at work.
Why do people bully others?
Bullying can be done by an individual person or by a group of people. Anyone can be a bully, including a friend, your boyfriend or girlfriend, brother or sister, or another family member. A bully can also be an older person, or someone in a position of power such as a teacher, parent or boss.
Often, bullies have low self-esteem and may even have been bullied in the past themselves. They may use bullying as a way of making themselves feel more powerful. People who bully can be motivated by jealousy and some do not understand the amount of hurt their behaviour causes. If you are being bullied, it may help to remember that often, bullies are often not as tough as they make out.
Try to remember that no matter how hard you try, the person who is bullying you might not be willing to change his or her behaviour. This is when talking to someone else can be really helpful. This may seem scary at first, however, telling someone can lighten your load and help you to work out how to address the problem and how you can stop being bullied. Talking to someone is particularly important if you feel unsafe or frightened. Asking for help or talking to someone about it is not being weak or have given in. In fact, it can take a lot of strength and courage.
Although you may not want to, it’s important to tell someone in charge about what is happening. Your teachers and school counsellors want to know about bullying so they can take action and try to stop bullying across the school – it’s their job to help.
There are many people who can support you, including friends, older brothers and sisters, teachers, family members, counsellors or parents.
The person you decide to talk to should be someone you know well and trust. He/she will be able to give you support and may be able to suggest ways to deal with the situation that you hadn’t considered. It’s important to address the feelings that come from being bullied. If you are seeing a counsellor and feel you might get too nervous to speak, write down what you’d like to say on paper or in an email before your appointment. You might feel more comfortable taking a friend with you.
Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone you don’t know and that’s where services like Kids Help Line (1800 55 1800) and Lifeline (13 11 14) are useful.
Key points to remember
- Everyone has the right to live, work, study and play in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. No one deserves or asks to be bullied.
- Reporting bullying or asking for help, does not mean you are giving in to a bully. It’s about looking after yourself and making sure you feel happier and more comfortable.
- If you feel no one believes you or is taking you seriously, it doesn’t mean that your feelings aren’t valid or the bullying should continue. It’s important you tell someone else and continue to do so until you are helped.