Bullying and cyberbullying

Bullying can happen to anyone. It might happen to you, your friend or someone online. People being bullied often feel powerless and alone, or worried about what the bully might do next. The impact of bullying can last longer than the bullying itself. Experiencing bullying can increase a person’s chances of developing anxiety or depression.


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What is bullying?

Bullying is behaviour that is meant to be hurtful, targets a person or group of people, happens more than once and embarrasses, threatens or intimidates the person being bullied. It may happen in person but can also happen out of sight or online. Bullies don’t always work alone. The impact of bullying can be even greater when a group of people begin to act together.

Cyberbullying happens at least every few weeks to about one in 10 young people, and workplace bullying is also a common experience reported by young people.

Types of bullying

There are different types of bullying. Below are some of the more common forms:

Cyberbullying

Hurting someone using technology, via social media, email, text messages or websites. For example, being teased or made fun of online, having unpleasant comments, pictures or videos about you sent or posted on social media or websites, having someone use your screen name or password and pretending to be you to hurt someone else.

Social

Leaving people out, not inviting someone to social occasions, stopping a conversation when someone walks in the room. Gossiping, bitching, or talking about someone behind their back.

Physical

Punching, tripping, kicking or stealing and/or destroying someone else's property. Unwanted kissing or touching.

Verbal/Emotional

Name calling or put downs, threats, teasing, ridiculing, intimidation and stalking.

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The impact of bullying

The experience of being bullied is different for everyone. People may feel alone, anxious, scared, miserable and powerless, while others may feel overwhelmed by sadness, ashamed or rejected. They may feel there is no escape from the bully or that there is no hope that things will change. Anger is another common reaction, as the attack from the bully is unfair and unwarranted.

Bullying can affect every part of a person’s life, including relationships with their friends and family. It can affect a person’s confidence and performance at school, in a sports team or at work. The person being bullied might change how they look or act to try to avoid being bullied further. They might also withdraw from social activities or use unhelpful coping strategies, like drugs and alcohol or self-harming, to manage painful feelings.

Taking action

When someone is being bullied there are two important things to think about – looking after yourself or the person being bullied, and taking action to try to stop the bullying.

  • Ask them to stop.
  • Walk away or ignore them.
  • Talk to someone.
  • Keep a diary.
  • Report the abuse.
  • Focus on looking after yourself.
  • If things don’t improve get support from a friend, family member or counsellor.

Everyone copes with being bullied differently. Often you’ll need to try a few solutions to find what works best for you, or your friend. If the things you try don’t work, it’s time to get help from someone else. You don’t have to face this alone. 

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Helping others

If you see someone being bullied you could help in a range of ways.

  • Tell the person acting like a bully to stop: if you feel safe to do so, call others out on their bullying and ask them to stop
  • Be respectful of others: don’t tease or spread gossip about others, and think before you post
  • Be supportive, and help the person take steps to protect themselves from the bully: you could help them to report the bullying to someone you trust, or suggest they talk to a counsellor about how the bullying’s affecting them

Focus on supporting your friend by letting them know you are there to help. Don’t bully or attack back.

Looking after yourself

There are many people who can support you, including friends, teachers, family members, counsellors, managers or parents. They can talk with you about how you are coping and what support you need. If your feelings of stress, anxiety or sadness get too intense, a counsellor, youth worker or doctor can help. You can talk to a counsellor in person (at the local medical clinic, headspace), online (Beyond Blue Support Serviceeheadspace, Kids Helpline) or by phone (Beyond Blue Support ServiceKids Helpline).

Talking to someone about how you feel can seem a bit strange at first, particularly if it’s not something you do often, but it’s a good habit to get into. By talking about what is going on you can begin to look at how you are feeling, why you are feeling that way and what you can do about it. 

You may not be able to stop the bully doing hurtful things, but you can take control over how you respond to them and how you look after yourself. You might decide to do more things that you enjoy, focus on your positive or helpful thoughts, spend time with friends you trust, or exercise to cope better with the stress.