Get help dealing with bullying and cyber-bullying.
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'Bullying' is a word that gets used a lot to describe a whole lot of things. Bullying is when someone repeatedly and intentionally uses words or actions against someone else or a group of people, to cause distress and risk to their wellbeing.
People who do it usually want to make someone else feel powerless or helpless.
Bullying is not the same as conflict between people (like having a fight) or disliking someone, even though people might bully each other because of conflict or dislike.
Watch this video - it gives an example of what bullying can look like and the choices that could be made to stop the bullying, by both the person being bullied and the people who've witnessed the bullying:
The sort of repeated behaviours that can be considered bullying include:
- Keeping someone out of a group (either online or in real life)
- Giving nasty looks, making rude gestures, calling names, being rude and impolite, and constantly negative teasing.
- Spreading rumours or lies, or misrepresenting someone (i.e. using their Facebook account to post messages as if it were them)
- Messing around that goes too far
- Harassing someone based on their race, sex, religion, gender or a disability
- Intentionally and repeatedly hurting someone
- Intentionally stalking someone
- Taking advantage of any power over someone else
Bullying can happen anywhere. It can be in school, at home, at work, in online social spaces, via text messaging or via email. It can be physical, verbal, emotional, and it also includes messages, public statements and behaviour online intended to cause distress or harm (also known as cyberbullying).
Types of bullying
Face-to-face bullying (sometimes called 'direct bullying') can involve physical violence such as punching or kicking or direct verbal actions such as name-calling and insulting.
Covert bullying (sometimes referred to as 'indirect bullying') is less direct, but just as painful. It means bullying which isn’t easily seen by others and happens out of sight, such as excluding people from groups or spreading lies or rumours. Because it is less obvious, it is often not noticed by other people.
Cyberbullying occurs through the use of technology like instant messaging or chat, text messages, email and social networks or forums. It’s similar to offline bullying, but it can also be anonymous. It can reach a wide audience, and sent or uploaded material can be difficult to remove. Most people who cyberbully also bully offline. Read more about cyberbullying.
How can bullying affect you and others?
Bullying affects everyone in different ways, but many people who are bullied feel:
- Guilty, like it is their fault, even though it isn't
- Hopeless and stuck, as if there's no way out of the situation
- Alone, like there is no one to help you
- Like they don’t fit in with a cool group
- Depressed and rejected by their friends and other groups of people
- Unsafe and afraid
- Confused and stressed out, wondering what to do and why this is happening
- Ashamed that this is happening to them
If you are being bullied or know that someone else is being bullied, it's really important to tell an adult who can help. This could be:
- a teacher, school counsellor or other member of staff at school
- your mum or dad, or carer or other adult relative
You can also contact Childline's counsellors - you can call them on 0800 1111 - it's free and won't show up on your phone bill. You can also chat online with Childline's counsellors. Childline have some really useful videos to help you understand more about bullying and how to recover from it - see the childline bullying webpage.
Bullying can have a negative impact on everyone – it is not just a problem for victims and bullies. If you see or know of others being bullied, you may feel angry, fearful, guilty or sad. You may also feel worried that the bullying could happen to you. When bullying isn’t stopped or challenged by anyone it can create an environment where bullying is accepted and where everyone feels powerless to stop it
What’s a 'bystander'?
A bystander is someone who sees or knows about bullying or other forms of violence that is happening to someone else. Bystanders can be either part of the bullying problem or an important part of the solution to stop bullying.
Bystanders can act in different ways when they see or know about bullying:
- Some bystanders take the side of the bully by laughing at the victim, encouraging the bully or forwarding on text messages or messages on social media like Facebook and YouTube.
- Some bystanders will give silent approval or encourage the bully by looking on.
- Some bystanders may watch or know about the bullying but don’t do anything. They may not know what to do or be too scared to do anything. This group of bystanders knows that bullying is not ok.
- Some bystanders will be supportive and take safe action to stop the bully, find help or support the victim.
Be a 'supportive bystander' and make a stand against bullying. A supportive bystander will take action to protect the rights of others and use words and/or actions to help someone who is being bullied.
If bystanders are confident that they can take safe and effective action to support victims, then there is a greater possibility that they can stop bullying and the person who is bullied can recover.
People respect those that stand up for others who are bullied, but being a supportive bystander can be tough. You can help by:
- Making it clear to your friends that you won’t be involved in bullying behaviour.
- Never standing by and watching or encouraging bullying.
- Not harassing, teasing or spreading gossip about others, this includes on social networks like Facebook.
- Never forwarding on or responding to messages or photos that may be offensive or upsetting.
- Supporting the person who is being bullied to ask for help - e.g. go with them to a place they can get help or provide them with information about where to go for help.
If someone is being bullied, report it to someone in authority or someone you trust:
- at school report it to a teacher or a school counsellor;
- at work, report it to a manager.
- If the bullying is serious, report it to the police.
- If the bullying happens on Facebook, report it to Facebook.
Last updated: 13 August 2015