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Bullying and cyberbullying terms

Bullying and cyberbullying can damage a child or young person's self-esteem, confidence and sense of self. Children and young people, including those with disabilities, can be affected by bullying in all of its forms—whether they are at school, in public or at home.

What is bullying and cyberbullying?


Children and teens can disagree and argue at times: this is fighting—but bullying is different. The National Safe Schools Framework Resource Manual defines bullying as ‘a pattern of repeated physical, verbal, psychological or social aggression that is directed towards a specific student by someone with more power and is intended to cause harm, distress and create fear'. It explains bullying:

  • may be carried out overtly (such as face-to-face) or covertly (such as through social exclusion or by using technology)
  • is a sub-category of aggression and is different to, but also related to, violence and harassment
  • is not the same as social dislike or conflict, although these can lead to bullying.

Marilyn Campbell, a psychologist and academic at Queensland University of Technology, says students who bully often have an inflated sense of self worth, and take great delight in hurting others. "It is about abuse of power—physical power, social power, group power and (or) position power." She says positive parental modelling is essential in reducing the incidence of bullying in all its different forms.


The Bullying. No Way! website defines cyberbullying as bullying through information and communication technologies, such as email, MSN, Facebook, websites and mobile phones.

Cyberbullying, like other types of bullying, can be covert or overt, happening in ways that might be ‘hidden' or not obvious to adults, as well as in popular online forums such as YouTube and Facebook that can have a large audience.

The Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS) gives examples of the types of online behaviours that can be considered cyberbullying, including:

  • sending threatening emails
  • sending nasty messages through the internet, as text messages, or as part of prank calls to mobile phones
  • pretending to be another person by using another screen name or password
  • forwarding private emails, messages, pictures or videos without a person's consent
  • uploading mean or nasty comments or pictures sent or posted to websites or mobile phones
  • being deliberately left out or ignored over the internet.

How can it make me feel?

All types of bullying can lead to negative feelings—such as being lonely, scared, angry, hurt, annoyed, helpless, embarrassed or inadequate. Kids and young people who are bullied are more likely to experience social difficulties. It can affect behaviour, as well as interest in studying and other activities.

You can read personal stories about bullying, and share your story, on the Kids Helpline website.

Kids Helpline

Kids Helpline logo

Support is available if you are a young person who is experiencing bullying. You can call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or get in touch with a web counsellor now.


Youth Beyond Blue logo
beyondblue's website for young people—Youthbeyondblue—provides information on depression, anxiety and how to help a friend.

You can call the beyondblue info line on 1300 22 4636.

If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech disability, you can call through the National Relay Service:

  • TTY callers—phone 133 677 and ask for 1300 22 4636
  • speak and listen (SSR)—phone 1300 555 727 and ask for 1300 22 4636
  • internet relay—connect to and ask for 1300 22 4636.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated:
11 March 2013
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