What is bullying?

How to identify bullying, and signs your child might be involved in bullying at school.

Bullying is defined by three key features:

  • it involves a misuse of power in a relationship
  • it is intentional, ongoing and repeated
  • it involves behaviours that can cause harm.

Having a disagreement with a friend, or a single incident or argument is not defined as bullying. These behaviours may be upsetting, and should be resolved, but they are not bullying.

Physical and verbal bullying, such as kicking or name calling can be easy to see (overt). Other types of bullying, such as social exclusion or spreading rumours are not as easy to see (covert).

A person can be bullied about many different things such as ​how they look, sound or speak; their background, religion, race or culture including being Aboriginal; they have a disability; their size or body shape; their schoolwork, hobbies or achievements; or other ways they may be different.

Bullying can also happen online using technology such as the internet or mobile devices. This is also called cyberbullying.

How can I tell if my child is involved in bullying?

Children who are bullied or are bullying others may respond and act differently.

Your child’s behaviour and mood can change for a variety of reasons. Be alert to the possibility that the change may be related to bullying.

You may notice your child:

  • doesn't want to go to school or participate in school activities
  • changes their route to school or becomes frightened of walking to school
  • drops in academic performance
  • changes sleeping or eating patterns
  • has frequent tears, anger, mood swings or anxiety
  • takes money from home
  • has unexplained bruises, cuts or scratches
  • loses or brings home damaged belongings or clothes
  • asks for extra pocket money or food
  • arrives home hungry.

The signs of online bullying can be the same as signs of other bullying but may include other behaviours with phones and computers. For example, your child may:

  • be hesitant about going online
  • seem nervous when an instant message, text message or email appears
  • be visibly upset after using the computer or mobile phone, or suddenly avoid it
  • close a laptop or hide a mobile phone when others enter the room
  • spend unusually long hours online.

Often children do not report bullying to their parents. This may be because they are afraid of upsetting their parents, feeling ashamed, afraid of making things worse, or worried that they may lose privileges such as access to the internet.

Adapted with permission from Bullying. No Way! Visit the website to learn more about bullying.

Powerful Conversations

Finding opportunities to speak with your child about bullying is important.

The Powerful Conversations materials have been developed to help families, students and schools talk openly about preventing and addressing student bullying.

Access wellbeing support

It is important to look after your own and your child’s wellbeing. For more information to stay safe and well access our Resources to support wellbeing and wellbeing services.

Further Information

Further information is available on the eSafety Commissioner website on the parent webpage.


  • Health and safety


  • Bullying

Business Unit:

  • Teaching, Learning and Student Wellbeing
Return to top of page Back to top