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Bullying and cyberbullying

Adolescent sitting down using mobile phone


Bullying is repeated behaviour to hurt someone else. It might include:

  • physical assaults
  • harassing behaviour
  • repeatedly excluding or undermining someone
  • spreading rumours or negative stories about someone
  • manipulation or controlling behaviour
  • threats
  • discrimination based on sexuality, gender identity, race, religion, culture etc
  • calling someone hurtful names.

The bully might be an individual or a group of people misusing their power to put someone else down.

Bullying can happen in school, at home, in the workplace or in community groups like sporting clubs.


More and more bullying is happening online, which is called cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying can be particularly emotionally devastating because the bullying can continue constantly at any time of the day and night. Young people may feel like they are being bullied 24/7 and cannot escape it - even when alone in their bedroom.

Technology means cyberbullies can share hurtful or embarrassing comments or images quickly and widely, and it can be hard to stop the spread. Online bullies may use fake names or profiles which makes it hard to identify the bully.

Common places that cyberbullying can happen includes social media (Instagram, Facebook etc), via mobile phone (including messaging apps, SMS, Snapchat, phone calls, video calling), as well as in online video games, websites, in online chatrooms and forums.

Cyberbullying might include:

  • sending threatening messages via phone, email, social media or other technology platform
  • “trolling” or posting vicious, undermining, harassing or abusive comments on social media pages or other platforms
  • making or distributing content intended to embarrass someone else
  • sharing personal contact information publicly online for others to view (known as doxing)
  • pretending to be someone else online to embarrass or hurt someone else (known as catfishing)
  • accessing someone’s social media profile to post things designed to embarrass or hurt them
  • accessing sexual pictures from someone and then sharing them with others
  • encouraging someone to self-harm or harm others
  • spreading rumours, gossip or negative stories.

Signs of bullying and cyberbullying

There are many signs of bullying and cyberbullying. Some of these include:

  • not wanting to go to school
  • not wanting to talk about what’s wrong
  • changes to sleeping or eating patterns
  • mood swings, frequent crying or angry outbursts
  • trouble concentrating on school or homework
  • getting into trouble all the time
  • feeling sad, down, not worthwhile or ashamed of themselves
  • being withdrawn and non-communicative
  • unexplained scratches, cuts and bruises
  • ‘losing’ money, possessions and food at school
  • damaged belongings and clothing.

A child who displays some of these signs isn’t necessarily being bullied, they could be a sign of other concerns in their life or other types of abuse.

Getting help

Worried about yourself, a friend or another family member? Get help here.

Find out more

For more information on bullying, including information on reporting bullying, the Alannah & Madeline Foundation has information for parents, schools and children on the National Centre Against Bullying website.

To find out more about cyberbullying including information on the prevention and reporting of cyberbullying, please refer to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner website.