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Bullying can happen to anyone. Around one third of Australian students say they have experienced bullying at some point. Often people feel powerless against bullying. However, as parents it’s possible to take action against bullying to create safer environments for your child. Learn about what bullying is, why people do it and how to recognise bullying. Find out how to teach your child about handling bullying, and the importance of empathy and positive relationships.

This can help if you:

  • want to know more about what bullying looks like
  • want to understand why people bully
  • want to understand the effects of bullying behaviour
  • suspect your child is being bullied
  • want to know ways that you can help your child.

What is bullying?

Bullying occurs when words or actions are repeatedly used to harm someone’s wellbeing. While there are times we can accidentally say or do things that are hurtful, it’s important to understand that bullying is deliberate behaviour. It’s done on purpose to make a person feel intimidated, threatened or powerless and is often ongoing.

Unfortunately, teen bullying can be common, particularly at school. But it can happen almost anywhere such as the workplace, at home and online.

Why do people bully?

There are many different things that can influence a person to bully others. Some common reasons include:

  • to feel powerful and in control
  • to cope with unhappiness or anger
  • peer pressure
  • having little empathy for others
  • to deal with self-esteem and confidence issues.

The motivations behind harmful bullying behaviour can often be tricky to pinpoint. It can sometimes be a combination of lots of different factors, so it’s best to keep an open mind when trying to understand why a person might be using behaviours that appear to be bullying. There might be lots of other things going on for them. However, if their behaviours are negatively impacting others, they should be addressed.

What bullying looks like

Bullying can be more than just nasty looks and teasing. It can come in lots of different forms, including:

  • name calling
  • spreading rumours or lies about someone
  • physical intimidation or harassment
  • targeting a person’s sexuality, religion, race, gender or disability
  • singling a person out to make them feel alone or different.

What are the effects of bullying?

If someone is being bullied they can feel:

  • alone and helpless
  • unsafe and afraid
  • guilty, often blaming themselves for the bullying
  • stressed and anxious
  • depressed, sad or down.

Whether your child is being bullied or is somebody who bullies, it’s important to take active steps to address this behaviour. If you need further help with supporting your child through this issue, check out our list of things you can try to help your child with bullying