What is bullying?

What is bullying?

Bullying is when someone intentionally hurts another person or group with words or actions that embarrass, intimidate, or threaten them. It’s a repeated behaviour, not just a one-time incident of meanness. This means it’s different from having an argument with a friend and saying mean things. Bullying happens more than once, with the intent to hurt or embarrass.

Why do people bully?

People often bully because they don’t feel good about themselves. They might have low self-esteem, have been bullied themselves, or have serious issues at home. Bullying can make them feel more powerful and in control.

Types of bullying

Bullying can come in many different forms and includes a wide range of behaviours. Here are some of the different types of bullying:

Verbal bullying

Using words to make others feel upset, angry, or embarrassed. Includes teasing, name-calling, put-downs, threats, and harassing someone based on their race, sex, religion, gender, or disability.

Physical bullying

Any physical violence like kicking, punching, or pushing. It can also include stealing or damaging property. Sexual assault is also a form of physical violence.

Social bullying

When actions are taken to hurt someone’s reputation or exclude them. Includes leaving people out of social groups or situations, spreading rumours, or ignoring someone.


Any type of bullying that takes place online, such as through social media, text messages, or email.

Serious behaviours that overlap with bullying

These behaviours are not only forms of bullying but are also against the law:


When someone is treated differently because of an aspect of their identity, such as race, religion, ethnicity, age, disability, body size, sexuality, or gender identity. Learn more about discrimination and how to deal with it [here].


Includes physical, sexual, emotional, and neglectful abuse. Examples are hitting, unwanted sexual contact, and not receiving treatment when sick. Learn more about abuse and how to deal with it.

Sexual harassment

Includes commenting on someone’s sex life, making sexual jokes, displaying unwanted sexual material (porn), asking for sexual favours, and intrusive questions about your sex life.

What are the effects of bullying?

Being bullied can make you feel horrible. It can make you feel lonely, sad, confused, ashamed, hopeless, and really affect your self-esteem. It can also affect your mental health by making you feel depressed or anxious, and even unsafe or afraid of going to school or work. Bullying can have serious impacts, so it’s important to ask for help if you are having a tough time.

What do I do if I’m being bullied?

Stay calm

When you’re in the moment, it’s easy to get angry or upset by a bully — but remember, this is what the bully wants. By staying calm and planning your responses, bullies might get bored or back down. Check out our tips on how to handle a bully for some things you can say back!

Try to stay away from the person bullying you and ignore them if they try to talk to you. This might seem really difficult, but if you don’t give the bully the reaction they’re looking for, they might lose interest. If you are being bullied online, don’t reply to their messages.

Find coping strategies

There are many great ways to overcome bullying. Hang out with people who make you feel good and take care of yourself if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Do things you enjoy and focus on what makes you unique. Remember, it’s not your fault. Bullies often have low self-esteem and bully others to feel better about themselves.

Get support

Talk to someone you trust about it. This could be a friend, parent, teacher, or school counsellor. If that sounds too scary, you can call Kids Helpline or talk to one of their counsellors through their online service. Talking about your problems can be hard, but you’ll probably feel a lot better afterward.

Report it

Your school or workplace should have an anti-bullying policy. Tell your teacher or boss about what’s going on — they can help sort out the situation and stop the bullying. You have the right to feel safe at school and work. It might be hard to talk to someone in charge, but they’ve likely dealt with similar situations before and can help. If this seems too hard, talk to a parent, school counsellor, or call Kids Helpline to work out some strategies for telling your teacher, principal or boss.

You can read more about bullying on the Reachout and Kids Helpline websites.

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