Online bullying2018-08-02T08:12:21+10:00

Online bullying

Online bullying

Online bullying is bullying carried out through the internet or mobile devices. Online bullying is also sometimes called cyberbullying.

it can happen to anyone, anytime, and can leave you feeling unsafe and distressed.

Online bullying can be offensive and upsetting.

Types of behaviour in online bullying

Online bullying can include:

  • sending insulting or threatening messages
  • posting unkind messages or inappropriate images on social networking sites
  • excluding others from online chats or other communication
  • inappropriate image tagging
  • sharing someone’s personal or embarrassing information online
  • creating hate sites or starting social exclusion campaigns on social networking sites>
  • sharing unflattering or private images, including naked or sexual images
  • assuming the identity of the another person online and representing them in a negative manner or manner that may damage their relationship with others
  • repeatedly, and for no strategic reason, attacking players in online gaming.

For it to be called bullying, inappropriate actions online must be between people who have ongoing contact and be part of a pattern of repeated behaviours​ (online or offline). Single incidents or random inappropriate actions are not bullying.

One action – such as an insulting comment or an embarrassing photo – which is repeated through sharing and forwarding to others, can be called bullying if the individuals involved know each other, and have ongoing contact either on or offline.

Online bullying has the potential to have social, psychological and educational impacts.

How online bullying is different from bullying in person

While online bullying involves similar behaviours to bullying in person, it also differs in the following ways:

  • it can be invasive and difficult to escape — it can happen at all hours and while at home
  • it can involve harmful material being widely and rapidly disseminated to a large audience, for example, rumours and images can be posted on public forums or sent to many people at once
  • it can provide the person doing the bullying with a sense of distance from the other person, so there is a lack of immediate feedback or consequences.

These important differences should not distract schools, parents and carers from the fact that online bullying is essentially the same as bullying in person.

In fact, research suggests that many students who are bullied online are also bullied in person. If a student reports online bullying, it is important to investigate further to get the full picture.

Means – direct and indirect

Bullying can be by direct or indirect means.

Direct bullying occurs between the people involved, whereas indirect actions involve others, for example passing on insults or spreading rumours.

Indirect bullying mostly inflicts harm by damaging another’s social reputation, peer relationships and self-esteem.

Visibility – overt and covert

ullying can be easy to see, called overt, or hidden from those not directly involved, called covert.

Overt bullying involves physical actions such as punching or kicking or observable verbal actions such as name-calling and insulting. Overt, direct, physical bullying is a common depiction of bullying. (This is sometimes called ‘traditional bullying’).

But overt physical bullying may not be the most common type of bullying.

Covert bullying can be almost impossible for people outside the interpersonal interaction to identify. Covert bullying can include repeatedly using hand gestures and weird or threatening looks, whispering, excluding or turning your back on a person, restricting where a person can sit and who they can talk with.

Some bullying is both covert and indirect, such as subtle social bullying, usually intentionally hidden, and very hard for others to see. This type of bullying is often unacknowledged at school, and can include spreading rumours, threatening, blackmailing, stealing friends, breaking secrets, gossiping and criticising clothes and personalities.
Indirect covert bullying mostly inflicts harm by damaging another’s social reputation, peer relationships and self-esteem, that is, through psychological harm rather than physical harm.

Harm – physical and psychological

Bullying has the potential to cause harm (although not all unwanted actions necessarily cause harm).

The physical harm caused by some types of bullying is well recognised.

More recently, research has confirmed that short and long term psychological harm can result from bullying. This includes the harm to a person’s social standing or reducing a person’s willingness to socialise through bullying (particularly covert social bullying).
In fact, just the fear of bullying happening can create distress and harm. The ongoing nature of bullying can lead to the person being bullied feeling powerless and unable to stop it from happening.The effects of bullying, particularly on the mental health and wellbeing of those involved, including bystanders, can continue even after the situation is resolved.Sometimes the term ‘psychological bullying’ is used to describe making threats and creating ongoing fear, but it is more accurate to describe this type of behaviour as ‘verbal or social bullying’ and the impact on the person being bullied as ‘psychological harm’.

Context – home, work and school
Bullying can happen anywhere. It can happen at home, at work or at school. It can happen to anyone.

Bullying can occur between students, staff and parents/carers. Bullying. No Way! focuses on bullying between students, usually called student bullying or school bullying.

Teachers who are experiencing bullying at school should contact their supervisor, health and safety representative, human resources department or union. Information related to workplace bullying is available at Australia’s Fair Work Commission.​


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