What is bullying?

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Defining bullying

We can define bullying as verbally, physically and emotionally inflicting unwanted pain and suffering. Or bullying can be a forceful assertion of power or control through aggression. Bullying is deliberate behaviour and often repeated over a long time.  Here is some general advice for victims of bullying at school. 

It can happen anywhere. And at any hour of the day. Bullying happens in the classroom, in the playground and around the school lavatories. Even at home. Often peer pressure causes for this type of behaviour. And bullying can hurt a child both physically and emotionally.

Cyberbullying is bullying which takes place online such as on chatrooms, WhatsApp, Facebook or via text messages.

Cyberbullying is cruel and non-stop. A child feels there is no escape from their ordeal. A cyber bully can target a victim via a smart phone twenty-four hours a day. So day or night provides no relief from cyberbullying.


Five types of bullying 

There are many ways bullies operate, but here are some which we discuss on the website: 

1. Physical bullying

2. Verbal bullying

3. Sexual bullying 

4. Cyberbullying

5. Exclusion bullying 

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Bullying includes:

  • Verbal abuse, such as name calling and gossiping
  • Non-verbal abuse, such as hand signs or text messages
  • Emotional abuse, such as threatening, intimidating or humiliating someone
  • Exclusion, such as ignoring or isolating someone
  • Undermining by constant criticism or spreading rumours
  • Controlling or manipulating someone
  • Racial, sexual or homophobic bullying
  • Physical assaults, such as hitting and pushing
  • Making silent calls, hoax or abusive calls
  • Online or cyberbullying.
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Signs of bullying

It can be hard for parents to know whether a child is being deliberately bullied. Children sometimes keep quiet about bullying because they’re scared of reprisal. If I tell, will it get worse? They can believe wrongly that they deserve the treatment. And that’s it is their fault they are a victim of bullying. This is wrong.

Equally, a teacher or a parent may not be aware of the bullying. Sometimes it is difficult to spot bullying behaviour. Often bullies disguise what they are doing. But there are signs to look out for, and we list these below. They include:

  • Being afraid to go to school, being ‘sick’ too often in order to skip class
  • Belongings getting ‘lost’
  • Books and clothes being torn
  • Physical injuries such as unexplained bruises
  • Not doing as well at school
  • Asking for money to give to a bully or even stealing it
  • Being overly nervous
  • Losing confidence
  • Becoming easily distressed and withdrawn
  • Problems with eating or sleeping
  • Bullying others


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Who gets bullied?

Today nearly all children asked claim to be aware of what bullying is. They might have been a victim themselves, might bully others, or they may have witnessed bullying to others.

Even if your child has not been a target, it’s likely they’ll know another who has. Or can name a child who bullies others. So this advice can be helpful.

The history of bullying

Bullying is a long-standing issue in human societies, with evidence of bullying-like behaviour dating back to ancient civilisations. The concept of bullying as it is understood today, however, is a relatively recent development.

In the past, bullying was often seen as a rite of passage, a way for young people to toughen up and learn to fend for themselves. This attitude persisted for centuries, and it wasn’t until the late 20th century that the harm caused by bullying began to be widely recognized and addressed.

Bullying and Activism

The modern era of anti-bullying activism began in the 1980s and 1990s, when a number of high-profile cases brought the issue to the forefront of public consciousness. This led to increased media attention and the formation of advocacy organisations, which helped to raise awareness and push for changes in policy and practice.

In response to these efforts, many schools and communities began to implement anti-bullying programs and initiatives, aimed at reducing bullying and its effects. These programs typically include education and awareness-raising activities, as well as strategies for addressing and preventing bullying when it does occur.

Despite these efforts, bullying remains a persistent and pervasive problem. In recent years, the rise of technology and social media has brought new forms of bullying to the forefront, such as cyberbullying. This has led to ongoing discussions and debates about the best ways to address and prevent bullying in the digital age.

Overall, the history of bullying reflects a growing recognition of the harm it can cause, as well as a commitment to finding effective solutions. While progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to ensure that all children and young people are able to grow up in a safe and supportive environment, free from the fear of bullying.

Why what we do matters...

Because bullying is a serious issue that can have lasting and damaging effects on  people and society itself. Bullying can cause physical and emotional harm, lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression, and can even contribute to suicide.

By raising awareness about the negative impact of bullying,  Act Against Bullying can help create safer spaces for everone. We can influence change by way of promoting policies that reduce bullying to occur, educate schools and the public in general about the harm caused by bullying, and provide support for those who have been affected.

Additionally, what we do can promote empathy, kindness, and respect for others. By highlighting the experiences of those who have been bullied and encouraging people to stand up against it, we can help create a culture of tolerance and compassion.

Overall, it matters because it helps to address the root causes of bullying and to create a world where everyone feels valued, respected, and safe.

Get involved

We’ve made quite a splash with our campaigns. But with your help, we can continue to change social attitudes on bullying and abuse wherever it occurs.

To make a donation

Promoting peaceful solutions to abuse. Campaigning to influence policy, advising victims, teachers and parents. Building pro-social media support.