What is bullying?

Bullying is defined as an “ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical or social behaviour that causes physical or psychological harm”.

Types of bullying

Verbal bullying

includes spoken or written words intended to insult or otherwise cause emotional pain to a person.

Physical bullying

includes actions that physically harm an individual or their belongings, including stealing from them.

Social bullying

includes actions intended to socially isolate another person or otherwise attack their social standing, for example by sharing personal information with others (Australian Education Authorities 2019; Kids Helpline 2019; Australian Human Rights Commission 2012). Cyberbullying, also referred to as online bullying, is a subset of verbal and/or social bullying carried out through technology, such as the internet and mobile devices (Australian Education Authorities 2019; Office of the eSafety Commissioner 2018).

Where does bullying happen?

Bullying can happen:

  • anywhere (for example, at school, home or in the neighbourhood);
  • in person or online; and
  • in an obvious or hidden manner.

How many children are bullied?

The proportion of children who have been bullied or experienced bullying-like behaviours varies depending on the source. This is due to variations in the definition of bullying, and/or the nature and scope of questions asked. The Australian Institute of Health & Welfare provides a wealth of statistical analysis from various studies on bullying.

Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)

This study follows the development of 10,000 young people and was conducted in partnership between the Department of Social Services, Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

  • It was estimated using data from the LSAC in 2016 that 70% of children aged 12–13 had experienced at least 1 bullying-like behaviour in the 12 months before the survey. Approximately 60% of the children who had experienced bullying-like behaviour, had experiences in the month before the survey.
  • Of those children who had experienced bullying-like behaviour in the month before the survey, more than two-fifths (43%) had experienced this behaviour about once a week or more frequently (AIHW analysis of the LSAC).
  • In 2020, just over 4 in 10 (44%) young people aged 12–17 had at least 1 negative online experience in the 6 months prior to September.

Bullying. No way!

According to www.bullyingnoway.gov.au:

  • 29% of Year 8s reported frequent school bullying.
  • Approximately one in five young school students reported experiencing online bullying in any one year.
  • Students 10 to 15 years of age are the most likely to be involved in online bullying.
  • 84% of students who were bullied online were also bullied in person.
  • 83% of students who bully others online also bully others in person.
  • Enhancing social status with peers is the most commonly reported motivator for bullying.
  • In 85% of bullying interactions, peers are present as onlookers, and play a central role in the bullying process.
  • Students may not report bullying to the school because they fear not being believed or making things worse.
  • Students often tell parents about bullying rather than anyone else.

Other Studies

Other studies confirm similar statistics on bullying. PwC, in their March 2018 report entitled The economic cost of bullying in Australian schools, concluded that each year, 543,000 bully perpetrators instigate more than 45 million bullying incidents at school and that almost 25 per cent of school students in Australia, or an estimated 910,000 children, experience bullying at some stage during their time in school and that the consequences of bullying last for many years after schooling is complete.

Bullying - a Vicious Cycle

Many children who bully have also been the victim of bullying themselves.

Data from the LSAC showed that about 46% of children aged 12–13 who experienced bullying-like behaviours in the 12 months before the survey had also used these behaviours against another child in the same period, compared with 7.4% of children who did not experience any of these behaviours.

Overall, there was a large amount of overlap between children who experience bullying-like behaviours and those who use these behaviours against others, confirming that bullying creates more bullies. The solution is not to bully the bullies, yet at the same time, not to allow bullying behaviour to continue.

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