Information for parents and students to identify what constitutes bullying, harassment, violence and e-crimes.


Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious or hidden. Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.
Some conflicts between children are a normal part of growing up and are to be expected. Single incidents and conflicts or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not considered bullying, even though they may be upsetting and need to be resolved.

Bullying can happen:

  • face-to-face – eg pushing, tripping, name-calling
  • at a distance – eg spreading rumours, excluding someone
  • through information and communications technologies – eg use of SMS, email, chat rooms. (cyber-bullying)

Identifying bullying can sometimes be difficult. Bullying is often conducted out of sight of teachers and children may be reluctant to report bullying. Online bullying is sometimes called cyber-bullying and carried out through the internet or mobile devices. Children who are bullied online are also often bullied face-to-face.

Examples of online bullying include:

  • repeated hang up calls
  • sending insulting or threatening text messages
  • publishing someone’s personal or embarrassing information online
  • creating hate sites or starting exclusion campaigns on social networking sites.

Online bullying is one potential cybersafety issue for children when they use computers and mobile phones. Learn more about cybersafety at Bullying No Way.


Harassment occurs when someone is made to feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated because of their:

  • identity, race, culture or ethnic origin
  • religion
  • physical characteristics
  • gender
  • sexual orientation/identity
  • marital, parenting or economic status
  • age
  • ability or disability.

It can include behaviour such as:

  • telling insulting jokes about particular racial groups
  • sending explicit or sexually suggestive emails
  • displaying offensive posters or screen savers
  • making derogatory comments or taunts about someone’s race, religion or sexuality.

It may be:

  • an ongoing pattern of behaviour or a single act
  • directed randomly or towards the same person(s)
  • intentional or unintentional.

Signs of being bullied or harassed

Your child’s behaviour can change for a variety of reasons. However, the following signs could indicate that your child is being bullied:

  • not wanting to go to school or participate in school activities
  • not appearing to have friends
  • missing belongings
  • torn clothing
  • seems to have become fearful and anxious
  • has more mood swings, and seems to be crying more
  • seems to have a drop in academic performance
  • has poorer physical health and changes in sleep habits
  • has increased negative self-perception.

The signs of possible cyberbullying can be the same as signs of other bullying, but include certain behaviour with phones and computers, for example:

  • being hesitant about going online
  • seeming nervous when an instant message, text message or email appears
  • being visibly upset after using the computer or mobile phone, or suddenly avoiding it
  • minimising the computer screen, or hiding the mobile phone when you enter the room
  • spending unusually long hours online in a more tense, pensive tone
  • receiving suspicious phone calls, emails or packages
  • withdrawing from friends, falling behind in schoolwork, or avoiding school.


Violence is the intentional use of power (threatened or actual) against another person that results in psychological harm, injury or death. Violence may be a single incident, a random act, or it can occur over time. Assault is a police matter.


eCrime occurs when a computer or other electronic communication devices (eg mobile phones) are used to commit an offence, are targeted in an offence, or act as a storage device in an offence.

Reporting bullying and harassment

Bullying and harassment affects a person’s wellbeing, health and confidence and the ability to study and participate in learning activities. If you are unsure if you have been bullied or harassed, read more about what constitutes bullying and harassment.

Preparing to make a report

Before you make a report write down as many details as you can about the incident. This will help you to recall details and make it easier to answer questions when you lodge your report. 

Take notes about:

  • what happened
  • when it happened
  • where it happened
  • who was involved
  • who saw it happen.

If a website or mobile phone was used as part of the bullying, it will help with tracking and blocking people engaging in the bullying behaviour if you can:

  • save messages and details of the senders – if you are the person who was bullied and you don’t want to keep reading the messages, ask someone you trust to save them for you
  • provide information about which websites or social networks were used
  • provide the name of your internet service provider or mobile phone provider.

Where to make a report


If the bullying is happening at school, or involves students from the school outside of school, you should let the school know the situation. Gather the information you have from your child to share with the school. The bullying and harassment support page provided more information for parents and caregivers about bullying and harassment at schools.


Bullying and harassment includes activities that are against the law and should be reported to the police. these include producing or broadcasting child pornography or suicide materials, blackmail, racial vilification, and unlawful operation of a computer including e-crimes. Police officers have the power to confiscate a mobile phone or computer if an image held on the device may be used as evidence of a crime. Such devices may be kept by the police until the action comes before a court.

Website administrators and mobile phone providers

If the bullying occurred online you can usually make an abuse report or contact the system administrator or service. Even if the bully cannot be identified, they can usually be blocked from the service.


Cyber safety contact centre | Phone: 1800 880 176

Bullying and Harassment Help and Advice

Office of the Children’s Safety Commissioner

DECD coalition for the prevention of bullying and violence in schools.(PDF Brochure with many useful links)