How to recognise bullying and do something about it

A survey* of schools in 40 different countries found that Australian Primary Schools have one of the highest bullying rates in the world. Survey results show that 25% of year 4 students are affected by bullying, with the number rising to a shocking 35% in the final two years of primary school.

Considering this, it's critical we are aware what bullying is, how to recognise it, how to take action and what others can do to go as a ‘bystander’ to an ‘upstander’.

Types of bullying

  • Verbal -  including name calling, ignoring, or ridiculing someone,
  • Physical -  poking, hitting, punching, kicking, pushing or destroying someone’s property,
  • Covert - including lying or spreading rumours, deliberate exclusion from friendship groups, or playing horrible jokes on somebody, and
  • Cyberbullying - using technology to send hurtful messages or pictures on mobile devices, PCs and via social media.

Although bullying is not rare, it is important to acknowledge that some conflicts between children are to be expected. Single episodes of rejection, nastiness, random acts of intimidation, hostility, or mutual disagreements are not considered bullying.

There are, however, some clear signs to recognise if someone is being bullied; mood swings, becoming withdrawn, frequent tears, bursts of anger, unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches, missing or damaged belongings. Other signs could include avoidance of school, fall in academic results, becoming upset after going online, hiding the computer screen and hiding mobile phones when around other people.

If you suspect your child is the victim of bullying behaviour, talk to them about what might be going on. It is important for children to express how they are feeling. Together, decide on some strategies in the first instance which could be blocking online bullies or walking away.

Encourage them to confide in you or another family member, friend, teacher, or counsellor. Organisations such as Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) and Lifeline (13 11 14) offer 24/7 counselling over the phone, web chat and email.

At Life Education our modules; bCyberwise, Growing Good Friends and Relate Respect Connect, equip students with helpful age-appropriate strategies to manage bullying behaviour in their lives.

Bystander to bullying

A bystander is a person who has seen another being repetitively hurt by a bully, yet stand and watch in silence or simply turn their back on the whole situation.

Even if your child is not experiencing bullying themselves, they can help peers around them who may be experiencing it. Although a bystander is not actively taking part in the bullying, knowing about it and doing nothing about it can be just as harmful.

Bystander to upstander

The change from bystander to upstander (someone who recognises when something is wrong and acts to make it right), can be a simple one. Speaking to a teacher, school counsellor or trusted adult about what they saw can often the best first step in stopping the cycle of bullying.

Help tackle bullying in your school

Our program empowers students of all ages to identify bullying behaviour, manage their experiences and to take action.

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* Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., & Foy, P. (with Olson, J.F., Preuschoff, C., Erberber, E., Arora, A., & Galia, J.). (2008)