What is Bullying Behaviour?

Bullying is targeted behaviour, online or offline, that causes harm. The harm caused can be physical, social and/or emotional in nature. Bullying behaviour isrepeated over time and involves an imbalance of power in relationships between two people or groups of people in society.

Building on many years of international research, the core definition above sets out clearcriteria to help school communities to prevent, correctly identify and address bullyingamong children and young people. Alleged incidents of bullying are however often complexand must be considered on a case by case basis.

There are many different methods of bullying behaviour including physical, verbal andrelational forms, and it can take place online and offline. There are also many differentmotives for bullying behaviour which can be understood on an individual level (for exampledesire for dominance, status, revenge) and/or on a societal level (for example identity­basedbullying such as racist, disablist, sexist or LGBTQ+ bullying). Bullying behaviour in schools isoften strongly influenced by attitudes, behaviours, norms and power dynamics that aredeeply engrained in our society.

The core elements of the definition are further described below:

What Types of Bullying Are There?

The most common forms of bullying are:


Persistent name-calling, which hurts, insults or humiliates.


Pushing, shoving, kicking etc., includes assaults and threats of assault and damage to property.


Threatening gestures – such as a throat-slitting gesture, or a gun-to-the-head gesture – or glances that convey threatening messages.


Socially isolating, excluding or ignoring someone.


Forcing another person to give away their property or money. ​


Rejection, Lack of proper stimulation (e.g. Fun & Play), persistent criticism, sarcasm, hostility or blaming of the child.

How Can I Tell If Someone Is Being Bullied?

Bullying can sometimes go unnoticed if you have not been made aware of it. It can be brushed off, unrecognized, or mixed up as something else. Sometimes students do not want to tell someone that they are being bullied. Indeed, 65% of young people who are bullied don’t tell an adult about it. This means that it is up to us to learn to spot the signs of bullying.

Some signs that a person is being bullied include:

  • Visible signs of anxiety and distress.
  • Targets may not want to say what is wrong.
  • Unexplained bruising and cuts.
  • Damage to property.
  • Drop in school performance on tests.
  • Excuses for not wanting to attend school.
  • Lowered confidence/self-esteem.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Repeated complaints of illness.
  • Skipping after school sports.

Some of these signs (e.g. excuses for not wanting to attend school) can be noticed in a student’s behaviour as a result of any type of bullying.

If you suspect bullying, do not ignore it. Address it.

What Can My School Do to Prevent Bullying?

One of the most effective methods of bullying prevention in a community is to use the ‘Whole School Community Approach’. This involves the entire school community – teachers and other school staff, parents, students and the wider school community. This approach is aimed at bullying prevention and intervention that can help reduce bullying.

Some examples of this are:

  • Awareness days to highlight the types of bullying.
  • Increased playground supervision.
  • An Anti-Bullying Policy.

Always remember that everyone within a school community has a responsibility to:

  • Avoid engaging in bullying behaviour.
  • Discourage and intervene when you witness bullying behaviour.
  • Assist and give support to those who are targeted.
  • Report bullying-related incidents.

How Can I Report Bullying?

You can report bullying in a number of ways, but we believe that the most effective way is to seek help from a trusted adult.

This could be a teacher, other school staff, parents or an older sibling. The most important part is to ask for help, because when you report bullying, you not only help the person being targeted, but also the person who is bullying and improve the environment where bullying is taking place.