What is bullying?

A shared agreement of what bullying is forms the starting point for effective bullying prevention and response.

On this page:

Bullying can happen anywhere, at any time, and can be verbal, physical or social. It can happen in person or online, and can be obvious or hidden.

  • Bullying is deliberate - harming another person intentionally.
  • Bullying involves a misuse of power in a relationship.
  • Bullying is usually not a one-off - the behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.
  • Bullying involves behaviours that can cause harm - it is not a normal part of growing up.

A shared agreement of what bullying is and its impact is the starting point for effectively preventing and responding to bullying in schools.

What is not bullying?

Making sure everyone in your school uses the same definition of bullying behavior is important. Sometimes things that are called bullying are not really bullying at all. These other behaviours may be just as serious as bullying, but may need to be sorted out in a different way.

  • A fight or disagreement between people of equal power or status isn't bullying, e.g. with a friend and they can sort it out between themselves.
  • One-off acts of unkindness are not bullying.
  • Not liking someone or a single act of social rejection isn't bullying.
  • Isolated incidents of aggression, intimidation or violence are not bullying.

Conflict and bullying

conflict and bullying

Read more About Bullying, including information on types of bullying, cyberbullying, the effects of bullying, and who's involved in bullying.