Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Dealing with bullying

5-minute read

What is bullying?

Bullying is common in Australia, and 10% of children say they are bullied on most days. Children should never be left to sort out bullying on their own. Helping children to protect themselves is more likely to be successful than trying to stop the bullies.

Bullying is a form of aggression. It happens when one child tries to abuse their power over another child.

Bullying can take many forms, such as teasing repeatedly to hurt someone’s feelings, leaving someone out of games and activities, and spreading gossip or hurtful stories about someone. It can also involve verbal abuse, insults and threats, and aggressive behaviour or physical attacks.

Cyberbullying is a growing problem. Cyberbullying occurs when someone is deliberately and repeatedly hurt or embarrassed using electronic means, such as the internet or a mobile phone. It is common, especially among children and teenagers, and includes abusive texts and emails and hurtful social media posts. You should always supervise young children when they are using electronic devices. Talk to them about how to keep safe when they are using the internet or mobile phones.

The eSafety Commissioner has tips on how to deal with cyberbullying.

How do I recognise if my child is being bullied?

Children react to being bullied in different ways. Signs to look out for include:

  • physical injuries, such as bruises, scratches or bites
  • poor sleeping patterns or wetting the bed
  • repeatedly asking for money
  • not wanting to go to school or preschool
  • schoolwork or homework deteriorating suddenly
  • wanting to sit alone, not taking part in activities
  • anxiety, being unhappy or angry

How can the bullying be stopped?

When you realise your child is being bullied, it is natural to feel angry and to want to protect your child. But you are more likely to stop the bullying if you can help your child to stand up to the bullies.

Stay calm and listen to your child. Often children do not tell adults about bullying because they fear it will make the bullying worse. It is important to let your child know that you believe them and that they did the right thing by telling you.

Act quickly to find ways to stop the bullying. Tell your child you understand why they are upset. Talk to your child about strategies they can use next time they are bullied. Talk about what strategies your child has already used — what worked and what did not. Give your child ways to avoid the bullies, like saying 'leave me alone', walking away, avoiding situations where the bullying occurs, or finding friends to support them.

Work with your child’s school. The school may not know that your child is being bullied because it can be difficult to detect. If your child is being bullied at school, tell their teacher and the school principal as soon as possible. Ask for a meeting to work together on how to end the bullying.

Do not blame the bully. It is important not to blame the bully or speak negatively — focus on the positive things your child can do. Don’t try to have the bully punished. We know that this does not successfully stop the bullying.

Often bullying is not black and white. It is your child’s personal view of what is happening. You should help them with anything that makes them feel sad, frightened or left out.

Stopping bullying involves the community — parents, children, teachers and friends — all working together. If your child sees someone else being bullied, encourage them to speak up or tell a teacher.

What if your child is the bully?

Children bully for many reasons. They often have developmental, behavioural or emotional problems, or they may be being bullied themselves. Some children might not lead the bullying, but they join in once the bullying has started or they watch passively and do nothing.

Bullies are more likely to have lifelong issues such as depression or problems with aggression. But early treatment can prevent this from happening.

Stepping in early is the key to stopping your child from bullying. Talk to your child about their behaviour, explain to them that it is unacceptable, and try to help them see things from the other child’s point of view. Make sure you model appropriate behaviour yourself. Getting angry or punishing your child will only reinforce the bullying behaviour.

More information

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to talk to a maternal child health nurse for advice and support.

The Trauma and Grief Network has fact sheets about dealing with bullying.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: March 2021


Back To Top

Need more information?

Cyberbullying: signs & how to help | Raising Children Network

Children who are being cyberbullied need help. Cyberbullying signs include mood and behaviour changes. Use the G.E.T.R.I.D. steps to handle cyberbullying.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Cyber Bullying - WayAhead

Cyber bullying is bullying over mobile phone text messages or phone calls, email, social networking websites.

Read more on WayAhead Mental Health Association NSW website

Bullying - The Trauma and Grief Network (TGN)

Bullying is a difficulty that many children may now experience

Read more on Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network (ACATLGN) website

Bullying: spotting the signs in children | Raising Children Network

Signs of bullying include physical injuries, anxiety and sadness. If you’re worried talk with your child to find out more. Then step in to stop bullying.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Bullying: autistic children & teens | Raising Children Network

Bullying can be hard to spot in autistic children and teens, but there are physical, behaviour and emotional signs. You need to work with schools on bullying.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Bullying at school: helping your child | Raising Children Network

If your school-age child is being bullied, it’s important to step in quickly. You and other adults need to work together to stop the bullying. Here’s how.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

What parents can do if bullying is downplayed at school - Emerging Minds

What parents can do if bullying is downplayed at school Psychology Today, United States, 2012 Related to Bullying, Bullying, peer, family and social relationships Visit Website This blog post describes what parents can do if bullying is downplayed at school and the reasons why some school personnel downplay reports of bullying from concerned parents

Read more on Emerging Minds website

Bullying in child care I Starting Blocks

Its important for families and educators to work in partnership to prevent bullying and work together to manage it when it occurs.

Read more on Starting Blocks website

Children bullying others: what to do | Raising Children Network

If your child is repeatedly hurting other children physically or emotionally, it’s bullying. You need to help your child learn to treat others respectfully.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Protecting yourself and others online during COVID-19 | MensLine Australia

It’s never been more important to stay virtually connected | Understand the risks of engaging online & ways to stay safe.

Read more on MensLine Australia website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.