Types of bullying behaviour
There are several different types of bullying behaviours:
Face-to-face (or direct) bullying may include damaging a person's belongings, kicking, hitting and punching, or verbal actions such as threats, name-calling and insults. Face-to-face bullying is usually more easily witnessed.
Covert bullying is more subtle – it’s typically non-physical and occurs out of sight of others. Covert bullying can include hand gestures, threatening looks, whispering, excluding, blackmailing, spreading rumours, threatening and trying to socially isolate someone. Other behaviours may include damaging social relationships, playing nasty practical jokes, telling others' private information, criticising clothes and personalities, sending mocking or abusive notes, or intentional ignoring.
Cyberbullying, or online bullying, occurs via technologies such as email, social media, text messages, or instant messaging. Cyberbullying differs from offline bullying in that the perpetrators can more easily remain anonymous, content can reach a large audience and material can be difficult to remove.
These different types of bullying can occur in combination and cause children and young people to feel they have no safe space.
Read more about recognising the signs of bullying behaviour.
Bullying can have serious consequences
There are serious short-term and long-term psychological and social consequences of bullying for both the children and young people who are bullied as well as for those who bully them.
These consequences can include:
- feeling unsafe at school
- increased likelihood of depression and suicidal thoughts (especially young people who are bullied)
- decreased self-esteem
- lower levels of academic achievement
- negative attitudes towards school
- high levels of absenteeism
- alcohol and substance abuse
- poor mental health in adulthood.
Bulling also has consequences for children and young people who witness repeated bullying of their peers, as they can experience negative emotional effects similar to those experienced by the victimised individuals themselves. Children and young people may feel distressed because they feel powerless to stop what’s happening to someone else as well as fearing that they too may be unsafe or targeted.
Unfortunately, bullying is common
Here are some recent statistics:
- Approximately one in four Australian students are affected by bullying.
- Approximately one in seven young people have been cyberbullied, with research suggesting this number may be increasing.
- More than three-quarters of students who were bullied online were also bullied offline.
- Bullying is the fourth-most common reason young people seek help from children’s help services.
Read about what your school can do about bullying.
What causes bullying?
There’s no simple explanation for bullying
Bullying emerges from a complex interaction of social, personal and psychological circumstances. Underdeveloped social and emotional skills may also lead to bullying behaviour. Children and young people who have poor self-regulation and anger management skills are more likely to engage in bullying behaviour compared to those with better-developed skills.
Children and young people who engage in bullying behaviour may feel disdain for their targets, find bullying others to be enjoyable, feel strong and in control when bullying others, and/or believe that bullying others will help make them popular. Bullying behaviour can also occur because of distrust, fear, misunderstandings and lack of knowledge or jealousy.
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Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) and Social and Emotional Learning Research Group. (2009). Social and Emotional Learning and Bullying Prevention.
Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. 2009. Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth.
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Bullying is behaviour that aims to embarrass, threaten or intimidate another person. Its distressing to everyone, but we can stop it.