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What is Bullying

There is not a specific, widely-adopted definition of bullying. Although definitions of bullying vary, most agree that bullying involves:

  • Imbalance of Power. People who bully use their power to control or harm and the people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves.

  • Intent to Cause Harm. Actions done by accident are not bullying; the person bullying has a goal to cause harm.

  • Repetition. Incidents of bullying happen to the same the person over and over by the same person or group.


Bullying is an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.

Bullying can happen in person or online, via various digital platforms and devices and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert). Bullying behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time (for example, through sharing of digital records).

Bullying of any form or for any reason can have immediate, medium and long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders. Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying.

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