Definition of bullying

Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.

Bullying can happen in person or online, via various digital platforms and devices and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). Bullying behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time (for example, through sharing of digital records).

Bullying of any form or for any reason can have immediate, medium and long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.

Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying.

What bullying is not

  • single episodes of social rejection or dislike
  • single episode acts of nastiness or spite
  • random acts of aggression or intimidation
  • mutual arguments, disagreements or fights.

These actions can cause great distress. However, they do not fit the definition of bullying and they’re not examples of bullying unless someone is deliberately and repeatedly doing them.

You may also be interested in

  • Types of bullying

    There are many different types of bullying that can be experienced by children and adults alike.

    Read More >
  • Signs of bullying

    Spot the different signs of bullying and some of the symptoms.

    Read More >
  • How to stop bullying

    You may have noticed your child is showing signs of being bullied.

    Read More >

Subscribe to the Alannah & Madeline Foundation newsletter

Subscribe to the Alannah & Madeline Foundation newsletter or visit our media centre for media information including media releases, spokespeople, publications and contacts.