Different types of bullying

There are three types of bullying behaviour: physical, verbal and social. All forms can cause damage.

On this page:

Physical bullying

This involves hurting someone, or damaging or stealing their belongings. It includes:

  • hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, biting
  • tripping, shoving or intimidating another person
  • mean or rude hand gestures
  • touching another person when they don't want you to
  • being made afraid of being hurt
  • stealing or damaging possesions.

Verbal bullying

This involves saying or writing mean things. It includes:

  • name calling
  • teasing someone in a hurtful way
  • making fun of someone
  • being sarcastic in a hurtful way
  • offensive comments, insults or jokes about someone and their family because of their race, culture, religion, disability or sexuality
  • mean comments about someone's body or physical characteristics such as their weight or height
  • hurtful comments about the way someone looks or behaves
  • inappropriate sexual comments
  • taunting
  • threatening to cause harm.

Social bullying

This involves hurting someone's relationships or reputation. It includes:

  • ignoring or leaving someone out on purpose
  • telling others not to be friends with someone
  • spreading rumours about someone
  • destroying relationships and friendships
  • embarassing someone in public
  • sharing information or images that will have a harmful effect on the other person
  • telling lies or stories about someone to make others not like them.


If any of these types of bullying behaviours occur only once, or are part of a conflict between equals (no matter how inappropriate) they are not bullying. The behaviours alone don't define bullying. Bullying is when these things happen (or have the potential to happen) again and again.

Where does bullying happen?

Bullying can happen in person or online where is it known as cyberbullying. Physical, verbal and social bullying can happen in person; verbal and social can happen online, as can threats of physical bullying. Children who are bullied online are often also bullied in person.

Bullying can be easy to see, in front of others (overt), or hidden (covert) and hard for those not directly involved to see.

Easy to see (overt) bullying involves physical actions such as punching or kicking, or verbal bullying such as name-calling or insults.

Hidden (covert) bullying can be very hard for others to see or take place when no one is watching. It can include repeated hand gestures, whispering, weird or threatening looks, excluding someone, or restricting where they can sit or who they can talk with. Sometimes it can be dismissed by the initiator as 'just having fun'.

Cyberbullying is often hidden as it occurs on devices, websites and apps that adults don't know about or don’t access. It is also easy to remain anonymous. As young people increasingly use digital technology, the boundaries between the physical and online environment can become more blurred, so it's important to look at other situations as well and to take all reports of bullying seriously.

Remember, bullying can sometimes happen between friends. Friendship loyalty and the confusion of an on-off friendship can make some children and young people reluctant to seek help.

Resource icon

Infographic: Covert vs overt bullying

Find out more information on the types of bullying by downloading the resource.